Attorney General John Ashcroft last week announced a proposal that would allocate $1 billion over five years for DNA testing. Slated to begin in Fiscal Year (FY) 2004, the new Justice Department budget would include $176 million for lab equipment and training, $80 million for DNA testing in unsolved cases, and $15 million to reduce the testing backlog on DNA rape kits. According to the Justice Department, the backlog for rape kits is estimated at 180,000 to 500,000 nationwide, reported the Virginian-Pilot.
This latest move by the administration complements recent legislative measures in Congress. Earlier this month, Rep. Mark Green (R-WI) introduced the Debbie Smith Act of 2003, requiring health officials to test rape victim DNA samples within 10 days of receipt and allocating federal funding for comprehensive training of hospital examiners working with rape victims and standardization and facilitation of DNA evidence collection and testing.
Introduced by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) in January, the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act of 2003-- which requires local law enforcement agencies to assess their DNA backlog-- provides federal funding for laboratory processing of rape kits, expanded DNA testing, evidence collection and handling training, and computer upgrades for the FBI’s DNA database. In addition, the bill authorizes John Doe/DNA indictments whereby DNA evidence may extend the five-year statute of limitations on a federal sexual offense. Several related bills were proposed last year. However, none passed both the House and Senate.
Prompt DNA testing is critical because perpetrators are able to roam free in the meantime-- which not only adds anxiety to the victim, but also leaves all women at risk, given that the average rapist commits eight to 12 sexual assaults. The FBI’s national DNA database, established in 1990 and containing approximately 1.3 million entries, has made over 6,000 matches and aided in nearly 6,500 criminal investigations, according to the Associated Press.
Last week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report indicating that more than half of all violent crimes in the US go unreported. Most crime victims—especially victims of rape or simple assault—who did not report reasoned their experience was “a personal matter,” according to the Washington Post. However, 12 percent of those raped or sexually assaulted said they did not report for fear of retribution.
2/27/2015 This Bipartisan Bill Will Hold Colleges Accountable for Ending Campus Sexual Assault - A bipartisan bill aimed at holding colleges and universities accountable for rape and sexual assault cases was introduced in Congress yesterday, spearheaded by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Some of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act's key key provisions include a requirement of confidential reporting systems on colleges and universities, minimum training requirements for campus personnel, and stricter penalties for schools found to be in violation of Title IX or the Clery Act. . . .
2/26/2015 If This Bill Passes Federal Law Will Add Consent to Sex Ed Curriculums - Right now, federal law does not require health or sex education to include sexual assault prevention - but that could change with a new bill introduced by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).
The Teach Safe Relationships Act of 2015, which was introduced earlier this month, would require all public secondary schools in the country to include teaching "safe relationship behavior" in order to help prevent domestic violence and sexual assault. . . .