Test the rape kits

From an editorial Monday in the Washington Post:

So convinced is Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance of the importance of rape kits in improving public safety that he is dedicating $35 million to help eliminate the backlog that has become a national disgrace. The money is the single largest financial contribution toward testing the hundreds of thousands of rape kits that have sat – for years and even decades – untouched in police storage facilities.

But for the effort to have maximum impact, Congress must act to help local communities investigate and prosecute cases as well as put in place reforms to prevent backlogs from occurring again.

Additional resources are needed to conduct investigations, bring perpetrators to justice, reach out to neglected survivors and build systems to prevent future backlogs. President Barack Obama has proposed a new federal grant program to help communities undertake this work, and both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee have included $41 million for this effort in their appropriations bills for fiscal 2015. But the proposal has been caught up in Congress’s uncertainty over the budget.

Congress should keep in mind the words of Mariska Hargitay, the actress who founded Joyful Heart: “Testing rape kits sends a fundamental and crucial message to victims of sexual violence: You matter.”