House Passes Cohen Amendment to Help Eliminate Memphis Rape Kit Backlog and Keep Communities Safe

[WASHINGTON, DC] – The U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon passed on a voice vote Congressman Steve Cohen’s (TN-09) amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill that would provide more federal resources to local law enforcement agencies working to reduce their backlogs of untested rape kits. Of roughly 400,000 untested rape kits sitting in evidence rooms nationwide, an estimated 12,000 remain untested in Memphis—more than anywhere else in the country. Untested rape kits are a significant public safety hazard that prevents law enforcement from apprehending violent criminals, increases the risk of additional crimes, and robs victims of the justice they deserve. Video of the Congressman introducing and speaking in support of his amendment is available here.

“Absolutely no one should be a victim of sexual assault,” said Congressman Cohen. “And it is a travesty when communities are terrorized and innocent people are victimized simply because evidence that could be used to prevent these crimes sits untested on a shelf somewhere. We know that these untested rape kits could have caught perpetrators and prevented additional attacks and more victims, and we must do everything in our power to eliminate a rape kit backlog that is worse in Memphis than anywhere else in the country. It’s the least we can do to give victims the justice they deserve and it is an imperative if we want to keep our communities safe from predators.”

The Congressman’s deficit-neutral amendment transfers $5 million in federal funds to a new grant program focused specifically on helping law enforcement agencies and cut through their sexual assault kit backlogs. The additional funding would increase the grant program’s budget by nearly 15%, from $36 million to $41 million, and increase Memphis’ chances of receiving the funding necessary to significantly reduce its current backlog.