The House of Representatives passed the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2008 last week, which will help process a backlog of rape kits across the country. The Act provides funds for a grant program that started in 2004, with the objective to process the nearly 400,000 untested rape kits nationwide. In the United States, more than 200,000 rapes are reported to authorities each year. Thousands of victims agree to a rape kits, an invasive process that can take up to six hours. These individuals are often unaware that the critical evidence gathered is never tested.
The Washington Post reports that the proportion of rape victims who report the crime has increased. However, rape arrests have decreased in the face of growing backlogs in evidence processing. Most states are not required to notify victims about the processing of their rape kit.
The backlog of untested rape evidence within the kits has been attributed to lack of financial resources. However, over the past four years, Congress has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for states to conduct DNA testing for sexual assaults. Failure to process rape kits is linked to states “failure to treat rape as seriously as other violent crimes”, while other non-sexual violent crime evidence is regularly processed, reports the Washington Post.