$38 million of funding will be poured into helping process sexual assault kits, the Justice Department announced on Monday.
The funding is part of a national initiative to solve the backlog crisis of unprocessed rape kits, which some estimates now number at 400,000. In their announcement, the Justice Department said the money will be put towards training law enforcement on sexual assault investigations, increasing the testing of kits and increasing DNA collection to connect serial sexual offenders.
"Reducing the backlog of untested sexual assault kits is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive, evidence-based and community-supported approach to resolve," Director Denise O'Donnell of the Bureau of Justice Assistance said. "These grants provide resources and improve processes to test kits, provide training to law enforcement personnel and improve the justice system while providing justice and resolution to the victims of sexual assault."
Sexual assault kits consist of a collection of evidence — swabs of DNA, hair, photographs, and detailed evidence about an incident — that are collected from a victim. These kits are often times used to prosecute rapists, but they can cost close to $1,500 to complete a test.
Because repeat sexual offenders are common, the funding of these kits could go a long way in stopping sexual assault.
"Testing rape kits sends a fundamental and crucial message to victims of sexual violence," Maile M. Zambuto, CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation, said. "You matter. What happened to you matters."
Cover image via Shutterstock
(H/T Mother Jones)