Zonta USA Advocacy Action Center

Zonta International is a global organization of women and men dedicated to empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. 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.

Ensure survivors of sexual assault can access victims’ benefits
Every 73 seconds in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted. When victims choose to have DNA evidence collected—a process that takes four to six hours—it is preserved in a sexual assault evidence kit, commonly called a rape kit.

DNA evidence contained by rape kits can be incredibly powerful in solving and preventing crime. However, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits are sitting untested in police department and crime lab storage facilities across the country in what is known as the rape kit backlog. The Joyful Heart Foundation defines an untested and/or backlogged kit as one that has not been submitted to an accredited public or private crime lab for testing within 10 days of being booked into evidence.

As a result of this backlog, many survivors of sexual assault cannot access state crime victim compensation when they need it. The bipartisan Fairness for Rape Kit Backlog Survivors Act of 2021 (S. 1339) would require state programs under the Victims of Crime Act to allow victims to file for compensation without being unfairly penalized for delays due to rape kit backlogs, even if the deadline for applying has passed. The bill gives states three years to update their laws or regulations to ensure fairness for survivors.

In April 2021, Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) reintroduced S. 1339 in the Senate. Please use our pre-drafted letters to urge your senators and representative to co-sponsor and support the Fairness for Rape Kit Backlog Survivors Act. If they have already sponsored or co-sponsored the bill, you can send a message of thanks.

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