Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) released the following statement after Senate passage of the Debbie Smith Act, bipartisan legislation she cosponsored to ensure rape kits are tested in a timely, efficient manner. The bill must now be passed by the House of Representatives in order to become law.
“The Debbie Smith Act provides critical resources to help local law enforcement quickly and efficiently process DNA kits,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I urge my colleagues in the House to stand up for survivors and pass this bipartisan bill as soon as possible.”
Originally signed into law in 2004, the Debbie Smith Act provides state and local law enforcement agencies with resources to complete forensic analyses of crime scenes and untested rape kits. This legislation provided the federal resources necessary for Nevada to clear its rape kit backlog in 2020, and continued funding will ensure the state can continue to bring perpetrators to justice. Without Congressional action, funding is set to expire in 2024.
The bill to reauthorize the Debbie Smith Act is led by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). This legislation is endorsed by Debbie Smith, the Fraternal Order of Police, Major Cities Chiefs, Major County Sheriffs of America, National District Attorneys Association, Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), and Joyful Heart Foundation.
Senator Cortez Masto has been an outspoken advocate for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. She helped reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which included her bipartisan Fairness for Rape Kit Backlog Survivors Act requiring state programs to allow sexual assault victims to file for compensation without being unfairly penalized for delays due to rape kit backlogs. Cortez Masto has also led the call for robust funding for the Byrne JAG grant to make sure that law enforcement has the resources it needs to hold perpetrators accountable.