Sen. Cornyn Efforts Reauthorization of Debbie Smith Act to Cut Down on Rape Kit Backlog

It is a problem that has continued to grow for years: rape kits stacking up, going untested, at times for years.

There is now a bipartisan effort to reduce that backlog and get those kits tested sooner rather than later.

Senator John Cornyn met with those working each day to help victims of sexual assault.

The Gatehouse in Grapevine hosted a round table discussion to address the issue of DNA testing that includes sexual assault kits.

Cornyn heard from two survivors including one woman who waited years for justice.

"My rape kit unfortunately sat on the shelf for 21 years," said Lavinia Masters.

She turned her painful story of being sexually assaulted as a child into a mission to help others when it comes to a backlog of untested rape kits.

Masters has worked with Sen. Cornyn on this effort.

"No victim should ever go through life not having any answers, not having any closure," she said during the round table discussion.

The bipartisan Debbie Smith Act of 2004 provides resources to state and local law enforcement to end the backlog, increases the capacity to process DNA and provides funding for DNA training and education for law enforcement.

Cornyn says in the past eight years the Debbie Smith Act has helped Texas reduce its rape kit backlog by 80%.

When asked what the current backlog is, Cornyn's office said they were only able to find figures from 2011.

Cornyn introduced and passed the bill in the Senate in May.

The House has not yet voted on the issue.

"I think unfortunately we're in a very political season and I hope people remember who this is for," said Cornyn.

A report by the Government Accountability Office found that despite about $1 billion in federal funding to cut down on the backlog, the number has grown by 85%.

Testing labs, it found, simply can't keep up.

"With more people reporting and providing this forensic evidence the numbers are going to continue to be too big but I do think we're making some leeway," he said.

Cornyn says the Debbie Smith Act reduced the backlog from about 400,000 untested rape kits to about 150,000.

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