Kamala Harris Announces Plan to Close Nationwide Rape Kit Backlog In First Term
As Jeffrey Epstein Case Draws Further Scrutiny and Attention, Harris Commits to Fighting for Survivors of Sex Abuse As President
As California Attorney General, Harris Closed Rape Kit Backlog In First Year In Office
Senator Kamala Harris is announcing a plan to close the nationwide rape kit backlog by the end of her first term, a bold commitment to help ensure justice for survivors of sexual assault, sex abuse, and rape. The announcement comes as the case of Jeffrey Epstein, who was indicted this week for sex trafficking and faces accusations of raping teenage girls, draws further scrutiny. On Tuesday, Harris called for Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who as U.S. Attorney negotiated a sweetheart deal for Epstein, to resign. “We need leaders committed to fighting for justice for survivors of abuse, not protecting predators,” she said.
Harris’ proposal would invest $1 billion to allow states to fully eliminate their rape-kit backlogs within four years and implement reforms to ensure a backlog does not happen again. On average, it costs $1,000 to $1,500 to test one rape kit. The annual estimated cost of the program is $100 million, which is $2 million less than what taxpayers have reportedly spent on President Trump’s golf trips. Rape kits are used by medical professionals to collect evidence during a medical exam of a sexual assault victim in order to establish elements of a crime, and in the last decade, roughly 225,000 known untested rape kits have been uncovered.
“The federal government can and should prioritize justice for survivors of sex abuse, assault, and rape,” Harris said. “As California’s Attorney General, I committed resources and attention to clearing a backlog of 1,300 untested rape kits at state-run labs, and we got it done within my first year in office. We need the same focus at the national level to pursue justice and help hold predators accountable.”
As Attorney General, Harris eliminated a longstanding backlog of DNA analysis and more than 1,000 untested rape kits in state-run labs and introduced new technology to dramatically increase the speed with which cases are analyzed. Harris’ program earned her office the U.S. Department of Justice’s Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services and was considered as “a model for use statewide.” She also backed California legislation in 2016 “to illuminate the state’s invisible backlog of untested rape kits,” and in the U.S. Senate, she sponsors The Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act, which would make rape kits more readily available at hospitals nationwide.
To receive additional funding under her plan, states will be required to implement four reforms: (1) Annually counting and reporting the number of untested rape kits; (2) Requiring the submission and testing of all newly collected rape kits within a short time frame; (3) Tracking rape kits and giving victims the right to know the status of their rape kits; and, (4) Increasing the availability of rape kits statewide, including in rural and remote areas. States will have the option to partner with the FBI to eliminate their backlog or to receive federal funding to process kits on their own. States will also be encouraged to enact laws that require law enforcement agencies to preserve rape kits for the duration of the statute of limitations.
Justice for women has emerged as a central theme in Harris’ campaign so far. She has already proposed plans to stop unconstitutional state-level abortion bans before they are implemented, force corporations to pay women equally, and close the “boyfriend loophole” to prevent dating partners convicted of domestic violence from purchasing guns, among other proposals to combat Black maternal mortality and increase pay for the predominately female teaching profession.