Vice President Joe Biden joined Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland Monday to announce that $41 million in funding from the federal budget will be used to test backlogged rape kits sitting in storage around the country.
There are approximately 400,000 untested rape kits gathering dust in U.S. crime labs. (That’s considered a conservative estimate since police departments are not required to report these numbers). While these kits sit in storage facilities, the rapists they could have put behind bars continue to roam the streets, and sometimes go on to commits other acts of sexual violence.
Though certain cities like Detroit, Houston and New York City have taken leadership on the rape-kit backlog by allocating funding and resources to make sure they are tested, activists have been urging the federal government to step in and make a more significant contribution.
This isn’t the first time Biden and Mikulski have teamed up to advocate for women: The two also were integral in passing the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, a landmark piece of legislation that’s likely responsible for changing and even saving women’s lives. The law helped rape survivors specifically by ensuring that they would never have to pay for a rape-kit exam and would never have their sexual history used against them in a rape trial.
During his speech at the Maryland State Police Forensic Science Laboratory—where he and Mikulski had been given a tour—Biden called rape kit testing an “absolute priority.”
More crimes can be solved. More crimes can be prevented, and more women will be given back their lives … It brings closure to the victims, and it brings rapists to justice.
Screenshot taken from video of Biden and Mikulski touring Maryland facility