WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — A law that helps state crime labs deal with the backlog of thousands upon thousands of untested rape kits is set to expire next month, unless Congress takes action.
The Debbie Smith Act provides funds to test the rape evidence kits that local law enforcement cannot afford to test themselves. The Senate recently voted to renew the act, but the Democratic leadership in the House has yet to schedule a vote.
Scott Berkowitz with the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN says law enforcement simply couldn’t afford to test the kits and victims were ignored.
“To just take that box and stick it on a shelf and never even bother testing it is incredibly insulting to victims,” said Berkowitz. “It means they don’t have a chance at justice.”
Congress passed the Debbie Smith Act in 2004 but its funding finally runs out in September — which means work on the backlogged rape kits will grind to a halt.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tacked on the bill’s reauthorization to the Democrats’ Violence Against Women Act —which is unlikely to pass the Republican Senate.
Berkowitz says Pelosi should instead take up the act separately, since it has been stalled in a House Committee for months.
Congress returns to work Sept. 9 and the Debbie Smith Act will expire Sept. 30.