A Fort Worth, Texas science center may play a major role in reducing the huge backlog of untested rape kits across the country.
The Senate is considering the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act. The legislation is meant to ensure funds are being used properly to help eliminate the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits, nationwide.
While DNA evidence is collected with most every report of a rape, the number of kits has overwhelmed police departments across the country, including those in Texas.
The backlog has left an estimated 400,000 rape kits sitting on shelves in evidence lockers.
One woman, Lavinia Masters of Dallas, was raped at the age of 13 and her rape kit sat on a shelf for more than two decades.
“I lived a terrible life of fear as a child, because my rapist told me that if he saw the police come to our home that he would come back and kill me and my family, because he knew my family,” she said.
Though Masters’ rape kit was eventually tested, the case did not end well. The DNA profile of her attacker was eventually linked to a serial rapist, but not before the man had committed multiple sexual assaults and the statute of limitations on her case had run out.
The University of North Texas Center for Human Identification in Fort Worth has been enlisted to and is now testing most rape kits in Texas. If the bill passes the center could be enlisted to tests kits from across the country.
If approved, the SAFER Act would require that at least 75-percent of funds be spent directly on either analyzing untested DNA evidence or increasing the capacity of labs to do so.