Bill aims to reduce rape kit backlog

HPD has more than 6,600 untested rape kits

Author: Robert Arnold, Investigative Reporter, rarnold@kprc.com
Published On: May 30 2012 07:54:56 PM CDT   Updated On: May 30 2012 10:45:59 PM CDT
Rape Kit

A new piece of legislation sponsored by Texas Senator John Cornyn is designed to infuse police departments around the country with more federal money to help reduce the staggering number of untested rape kits.

Cornyn said there are an estimated 400,000 untested rape kits nationwide. Local 2 Investigates has been reporting since January of 2011 on the Houston Police Department's struggle with this issue. Currently HPD reports it has more than 6,600 untested rape kits stored in evidence.

Cornyn stood with Mayor Annise Parker and several victims rights advocates as he announced the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act, or SAFER.

"I don't have to make a decision going forward, do I test a rape kit or I'm going to keep my library hours open," said Mayor Parker referring to budgetary constraints and decisions made over several political administrations contributing to Houston's backlog. "No mayor should have to make that decision."

"What the Mayor described is nothing short of a national scandal," said Cornyn.

Every year, through the Debbie Smith Act, the federal government awards more than $100 million to police departments around the country to help with forensic science. Currently the Act requires that only 40 percent of that money be spent on forensic testing of evidence. Cornyn's proposed bill would require 75 percent of that money be spent on testingĀ  and another 7 percent spent on auditing backlogs. The proposed bill also calls for the creation of a national registry to help track audits of untested kits and help prioritize the analysis of untested kits.

No one knows the pain of an untested kit more than Lavinia Masters, who attended Cornyn's announcement. Masters said she was raped at 13 years of age by stranger and her kit sat untested in a Dallas evidence room for more than 20 years.

"No price tag should be put on my sanity, on my life, on my living, on my life after, on my happiness," said Masters