Zonta USA Advocacy Action Center

Zonta International is a global organization of individuals dedicated to building a better world for women and girls. The Zonta USA Advocacy Action Center is a tool for our members in the United States and other individuals who share our commitment to gender equality to take action to improve the lives of women and girls. With your help, we can make a difference. In addition to the actions below, click here to support our joint efforts with UNICEF USA to end child marriage in the United States.

Reauthorize funding to end the rape kit backlog
At any given moment, thousands of rape kits are sitting in law enforcement evidence rooms or awaiting testing at labs. These kits often contain the DNA of violent sexual offenders who have not yet been arrested, giving these perpetrators the opportunity to reoffend.

A 2019 study revealed that 39% of sexual offenders identified in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) were serial offenders with a range of two to 15 sexual assaults each. CODIS is a national DNA information repository that allows state and local laboratories to store and compare DNA profiles from crime scenes and convicted perpetrators.

The Debbie Smith Act provides local and state crime laboratories resources to end the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved crimes, analyze DNA samples and increase the capacity to process DNA to guard against future backlogs. Since it first became law in 2004, more than 860,000 DNA cases have been processed and 3.5 million database offender samples were uploaded to CODIS.

Set to expire next year, the Debbie Smith Act must be reauthorized to provide state and local law enforcement agencies with resources to complete forensic analyses of crime scenes and untested rape kits so that sexual assault victims can receive justice.

Please urge your senators and representative to co-sponsor and support the bipartisan and bicameral Debbie Smith Act of 2023 (S. 499 and H.R. 1105). If they have already sponsored or co-sponsored the bill, you can send a message of thanks.

“As a former prosecutor, I know firsthand that behind every unprocessed rape kit is a victim of sexual assault wondering if they will ever see justice,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). “By reauthorizing the critical Debbie Smith Act, our legislation will provide law enforcement officers with additional resources to process untested rape kits and other DNA evidence, helping them bring more criminals to justice.” 

“Since 2020, rape cases throughout the United States have increased over 23%. This is absolutely unconscionable, and we must find justice for the survivors and bring accountability to their attackers. One of the most important methods to identify and prosecute sexual predators is through DNA analysis, and state and local law enforcement need the federal government’s support to efficiently analyze and process DNA evidence from sexual assault and rape kits,” said Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO).

The Debbie Smith Act of 2023 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.

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