Last week President Barack Obama extended funding on a pioneering anti-rape legislation first introduced by North Brooklyn Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
On Wednesday, Maloney announced that President Obama had signed into law an extension of the 2004 Debbie Smith Act, which has provided millions of dollars in funding to state and local law enforcement agencies to help clear-up the backlog of DNA analysis of untested rape kits. Estimates are that rape kits remain untested.
“Each time we convict a rapist using DNA evidence, we can protect countless other women from repeat sexual offenders,” said Maloney. “I am deeply concerned that far too many kits go years before they are tested. We need to eliminate that window and eliminate the possibility that a rapist is walking our streets while the evidence needed to convict him collects dust in a storage room.”
A survey conducted by the National Institute of Justice, based on reports from more than 2,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies, found that in close to 20 percent of sexual assaults reported between 2002 and 2007, the forensic evidence that had been collected had not been submitted to a lab for analysis.
The Debbie Smith Act was introduced in 2004 to counteract that very crisis. The act is named after a Virginia native who was kidnapped from her home in 1989 and raped, but whose rape kit was not tested until 1994. The test helped to identify the perpetrator the following year, who was already serving time in prison for robbing two women.
The act was previously reauthorized in 2008, and once again this year, with funds of close to a billion dollars allocated to be spent during the fiscal years 2015-2019.
“Very often in sexual assault cases, forensic evidence is the crux of the case,” said Kings County District Attorney Ken Thompson. This federal funding will help to combat the lack of staffing and resources, prevent a serious backlog and allow us to get swift justice for survivors of sex crimes.”
The signing of the law comes on the heels of an attempted rape that occurred at the intersection of Morgan and Driggs Avenue on September 28.
The suspect pushed the 25-year-old victim up against a wall and attempted to rape but she fought back, and the suspect fled the scene thereafter.
He was identified on surveillance footage and police are still on the lookout for the suspect.