Joyful Heart Foundation Applauds NIJ/FBI Partnership to Address Rape Kit Backlog; Urges Senate to Approve Critical Funding
NEW YORK – August 15, 2014 – The Joyful Heart Foundation today applauded the announcement by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that they have formed a partnership to help address the backlog of rape kits across the country. This new partnership will give local and state jurisdictions the opportunity to submit untested kits to the federal government for testing. The FBI will serve as a “centralized testing laboratory” for those kits and will upload resulting DNA profiles into the national DNA database. NIJ will gather information from the program to inform rape kit collection and testing processes nationwide. More information is available here.
When tested, DNA evidence contained in a rape kit can identify unknown assailants, confirm the presence of a known suspect, affirm the survivor’s account of the attack, connect the suspect to other unsolved crimes and exonerate innocent suspects. Law enforcement agencies are beginning to witness the powerful results of testing every rape kit booked into police evidence.
“The FBI-NIJ partnership is an important statement about the value that the federal government places on testing backlogged rape kits. The thousands upon thousands of rape kits sitting untested in police storage facilities across the country represent thousands of leads to investigate, survivors to re-engage with compassion and care and cases to prosecute. Communities simply do not have the resources necessary to make this possible while also responding to newly reported cases,” said Sarah Tofte, Vice President of Policy & Advocacy, Joyful Heart Foundation.
Many jurisdictions lack the funding and coordination to address their backlogs. That is why the Joyful Heart Foundation and our partners support the inclusion of $41 million for a new community-based sexual assault response initiative in Congress’ Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies FY15 spending bill. This funding, which has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate Appropriations Committee, will provide local communities with resources to: test backlogged kits in their police storage facilities; create multi-disciplinary teams to investigate and prosecute cases connected to the backlog; and address the need for victim notification and re-engagement with the criminal justice system.
“Every day that passes without this $41 million in funding allows perpetrators to go undetected, confines potentially innocent individuals to prison, and deprives survivors the justice they deserve,” added Tofte.
Background and further information on the rape kit backlog is available throughout ENDTHEBACKLOG.org.
The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.