Kamala Harris just announced a plan to end the rape kit backlog

Even though society has started to have important conversations about sexual harassment and assault, prosecuting sex crimes in the U.S. remains incredibly difficult. One huge barrier in these cases is the rape kit backlog—the massive number of kits that sit untested in hospitals for years. And now, Senator Kamala Harris has announced a $1 billion proposal to end this backlog if she is elected president.

CNN reports that the California senator rolled out her plan today, July 11th, making her the first in the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls to make such a proposal. Harris’s plan would involve investing $1 billion to help states close their backlogs. CNN notes that there are several requirements that states would have to meet to receive the federal funding, including shortening the time limit to test new kits, tracking the status of kits, and reporting the number of untested kits. The senator has pledged to address the issue of the backlog by the end of her first term, if elected.

"The federal government can and should prioritize justice for survivors of sex abuse, assault, and rape," Harris said in a statement to CNN. "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. We need the same focus at the national level to pursue justice and help hold predators accountable."

On Instagram, Harris wrote that about 225,000 untested rape kits have been discovered, a statistic that comes from a project called End the Backlog, a project from the Joyful Heart Foundation. End the Backlog estimates that testing one rape kit costs between $1,000 and $1,500. The initiative also notes that kits go untested for so long partially because of lab policies and lack of funding, among other factors.

According to The Washington Postwhen Harris served as California attorney general before her election in 2016, she helped introduce new testing technology to address the rape kit backlog. Her office’s Rapid DNA Service team told the Post that it cleared California’s backlog in just one year.

Harris’s plan could make a huge difference to victims of rape and sexual assault in America. We applaud Harris for addressing this issue, and we hope other candidates will consider doing the same.

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