(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today applauded the New Hampshire Executive Council’s approval of the use of federal funding to establish a new tracking system that will help tackle New Hampshire’s backlog of rape kits. As of May 2018, that backlog numbered nearly 600. Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to help communities combat sexual violence and is the lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee that allocated funding for the tracking system.
“Pressing charges is an excruciating decision for survivors of sexual assault. Preserving this evidence is often fundamental to their case, which is why rape kit preservation is so important for when survivors decide the time is right to pursue justice,” said Shaheen. “I’m very glad to see the New Hampshire Executive Council make good use of this federal funding to reduce the backlog of rape kits, which has always been a top priority for me. Combating sexual assault and empowering our communities with the resources they need to assist survivors is critical. I’ll keep fighting for more support for our law enforcement, courts and local organizations in New Hampshire that help survivors seek justice and see their perpetrators held to account.”
Senator Shaheen’s bill, the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act – also known as the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act —was signed into law in 2016 and created the first federal codified rights specifically for sexual assault survivors, and provides survivors the opportunity to enforce those rights in federal court. A primary objective of Shaheen’s legislation was to set a standard for states to replicate at the local level, which was done in New Hampshire by Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) when her legislation was signed into law last year.
As the lead Democrat of the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Shaheen has repeatedly negotiated record-level federal funding to support grants provided through the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). In the fiscal year (FY) 2018 omnibus funding legislation, Shaheen procured $492 million for the OVW and $47.5 million for a grant program to support comprehensive reforms regarding sexual assault and reducing the backlog of rape kits. Shaheen also successfully added $120 million to the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Reduction program.