Kamala Harris Announces $1 Billion Proposal To End Rape Kit Backlog

The Democratic presidential hopeful announced a far-reaching plan on Thursday to examine the hundreds of thousands of rape kits that remain untested.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) announced a $1 billion proposal on Thursday to end the backlog of untested rape kits if she were to win the 2020 presidential election. 

“The federal government can and should prioritize justice for survivors of sex abuse, assault and rape,” the presidential hopeful said in a press release.

Harris’ proposal would pay for states to test all their backlogged rape kits within the first four years of her presidency. The $1 billion investment would also go towards enacting reforms in the criminal justice system to prevent any future backlogs.

Under her proposal, states would be required to count and report the number of untested rape kits on an annual basis; implement shorter time frames to test collected kits; track kits and provide survivors with information on the status of their kit; and increase access to rape kits in rural areas.  

“As California’s Attorney General, I committed resources and attention to clearing a backlog of 1,300 untested rape kits at state-run labs, and we got it done within my first year in office,” Harris continued. “We need the same focus at the national level to pursue justice and help hold predators accountable.”

In the last decade, 225,000 untested rape kits have been uncovered, according to End The Backlog, an initiative of the national nonprofit the Joyful Heart Foundation. 

A rape kit is created during a medical exam to collect physical evidence left on a survivor’s body after an assault. Once a rape kit is compiled at a hospital, it is sent to police to be tested for DNA, which can then be used to prosecute the attacker and, in some cases, identify serial predators. 

All too often, however, these rape kits ― which cost between $1,000 and $1,500 to test ― end up sitting untested in law enforcement facilities around the country due to inadequate resources or funding.