From the Joyful Heart Foundation
Along with other survivor advocacy organizations, including the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), Healing Exists After Rape Trauma (HEART) and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA), Joyful Heart supports the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act of 2012 (SAFER Act), S.3250. The SAFER Act, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), will help state and local law enforcement agencies to end both crime lab and police storage rape kit backlogs by:
- Increasing the percentage of Debbie Smith Act grant funds that must be spent on analyzing untested crime scene evidence;
- Providing state and local governments with funding to conduct one-year audits of the untested sexual assault evidence in their possession;
- Creating a national database maintained by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to track those audits, and
- Requiring greater tracking of how Debbie Smith Act grant funds are spent.
The SAFER Act amends the Debbie Smith Act, which provides federal grants to eligible states and local governments to conduct analyses of backlogged DNA evidence. Joyful Heart encourages Congress to pass the SAFER Act because it addresses several concerns we have about the current version of the Debbie Smith Act.
The SAFER More >
Joyful Heart was honored to join Governor Cuomo in Albany on Monday as he signed the bill expanding New York State’s DNA Databank into law. The bill makes New York the first state in the nation to require DNA samples from anyone convicted of a felony or Penal Law misdemeanor. The new law also expands defendants’ access to DNA testing both before trial and after a conviction based on a guilty plea when appropriate. In other limited circumstances, defendants will now be able to seek discovery of property and other materials to demonstrate their actual innocence after conviction.
At the bill signing ceremony, Governor Cuomo praised New York’s legislative leaders for reaching a compromise that would ensure that the State’s dual goals of safety and fairness are met. He said to the audience, which included members of law enforcement, district attorneys, survivors and advocates from across the state:
“I am proud to sign this bill today because this modern law enforcement tool will not only help us solve and prevent crimes but also exonerate the innocent. The bottom line is that this is a tool that works and will make the state safer for all New Yorkers.”
Ann M., the mother of a More >
Since New York established its DNA Databank in 1996, law enforcement agencies from across the state have solved thousands of crimes—including more than 3,300 sexual assaults and 800 murders. After the state legislature expanded the Databank in 2006 to include certain misdemeanors, police solved 53 murders and 223 sexual assaults using DNA samples from petit larceny convictions alone.
The Databank currently captures offender DNA profiles for only 46% of crimes. Governor Cuomo has proposed expanding the Databank to include samples from offenders convicted of all felonies and all penal law misdemeanors. The Senate passed the proposal in January with overwhelming bipartisan support, but it is now stalled in the Assembly.
Expanding the Databank will solve and prevent crimes. It will allow more survivors of violent crimes to see their perpetrators brought to justice. Listen to the powerful story of Ann M., whose twelve-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted in their home. DNA evidence eventually led to the conviction of the attacker, but not until a decade later—when petit larceny became a qualifying offense for DNA collection.
Like Ann, too many survivors and their families wait years for justice and the healing it can bring. While they wait, their perpetrators remain free to commit other More >
The following post is a progress report from our GlobalGiving project to end the backlog of untested rape kits. To read this and our previous progress report, and to support this project, please visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/end-the-backlog-of-untested-rape-kits-us/.
We are happy to share with you that we have raised more than $5,500 through our GlobalGiving project to continue our work to end the backlog of untested rape kits and bring healing and justice to survivors of sexual assault.
We know that rape kit reform takes time—truly lasting change in the way our criminal justice system and we as a community respond to sexual violence will not come overnight. In our last GlobalGiving report, we gave you an introduction to our work in Detroit to end the city’s backlog of nearly 11,000 untested rape kits and support our collaborative partners through our Heal the Healers program.
Our commitment to end Detroit’s backlog of untested rape kits extends beyond supporting the wellness of police, social workers and prosecutors and today, we’d like to share another brief snapshot of what your funding is making possible.
With the goal of engaging and empowering survivors in the criminal justice system during rape kit reform, we are More >
Joyful Heart has been selected as one of 25 charities to compete for the chance to earn $1 million from Chase Community Giving’s American Giving Awards. With such an extraordinary gift, we could make a big difference for survivors of sexual assault. There is one day left to help us make a difference of $1 million.
Every year, tens of thousands of individuals report a sexual assault to the police. After an assault, a survivor undergoes an invasive exam that lasts between four and six hours to collect DNA and forensic evidence, which then goes into a “rape kit.”
The federal government estimates that over 200,000 untested kits are currently sitting untouched in storage facilities nationwide. Each untested kit represents a missed opportunity for healing and justice for a survivor. Eliminating the backlog would send a powerful message to survivors that their cases matter and that the criminal justice system has not forgotten them.
Joyful Heart would use the $1 million award to continue and enhance its efforts to end the rape kit backlog in cities across the country. We plan to create replicable victim-centered best practices, which will foster trusting and open relationships between survivors and responders; to completely overhaul endthebacklog.org, the only site More >