Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

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I'm pleased to join my Judiciary Committee colleague, the gentlelady from Wisconsin (Ms. Baldwin) as an original sponsor on this resolution. I want to thank her for her efforts in presenting this to Congress. I would like to thank her for reintroducing House Concurrent Resolution 104 to recognize April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Every 2 1/2 minutes a person is sexually assaulted in the United States. Sadly, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have been victims of rape or attempted rape. Two-thirds of these assaults are committed by someone that is actually known by the victim, and yet, only about 40 percent of sexual assaults are ever reported to law enforcement authorities.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month attempts to change these startling statistics by promoting education programs, victims support services, advances in DNA and forensics technology, and aggressive prosecution and incarceration of sexual assault offenders.

National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month helps to educate the public about sexual assault in our communities and the long-term effects that it has on its victims.

It also recognizes the work of staff and volunteers at rape crisis centers and other community organizations across the country that provide counseling and victims support services to sexual assault survivors.

With education and community support, it is my hope that more victims will pursue prosecution of their attackers by reporting their assaults to law enforcement. Once victims take this first critical step, it's up to lawmakers and law enforcement to ensure that these violent offenders are put away.

Last Congress, both the House and the Senate passed H.R. 5057, reauthorizing the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Program. The legislation was then signed into law on October 8, 2008.

The Debbie Smith program, originally authorized in 2000, awards grants to State and local governments to reduce the DNA backlogs of samples collected from crime scenes and the backlog for entry into the national DNA database. Through these grants, State and local governments received funding to test approximately 104,000 DNA cases between 2004 and 2007.

These grants have also funded the collection of 2.5 million DNA samples from convicted offenders and arrestees for inclusion in the national DNA database. The Department of Justice estimates that over 5,000 ``hits'' or matches are the result of this DNA backlog reduction. This is a positive step forward, but we must continue our efforts to reduce the DNA backlog to provide justice for sexual assault victims and put their attackers behind bars.

Mr. Speaker, in this sterile environment of the Halls of Congress, sometimes we forget that sexual assault is a crime that is committed against people in this country, a crime that most of them never really get over.

In my experience as a prosecutor and a judge for 22 years, I came in contact with numerous sexual assault victims, some of which never could quite handle and cope with the fact that they had been a victim of a crime, especially this crime, because, you see, when the offender commits a sexual assault against someone else, that offender is trying to steal the very soul of that victim. And sometimes victims cannot recover from that, emotionally or physically. That is why this legislation is important and that we