UPDATE: On Sept. 12, Chief Acevedo announced that he would find funding within the existing fiscal year’s budget to fund the analysis of the current backlogged sexual assault related cases—and any incurred during the closure of APD’s DNA lab—while the lab remains closed.
On Sept. 14, the Austin City Council passed the 2017 budget, which included $1.4 million in the general fund intended to pay for seven additional analysts and one additional supervisor, per PS1.04.
This is a huge win for survivors of sexual assault and for the advocates and citizens who fought to get these funds in the budget. Your advocacy and your support for The SAFE Alliance is a critical part of this victory. You can help us continue to fight for justice for survivors of sexual assault by making a gift today.
With the efforts of advocates like Amy Alanis and many others who bravely shared their stories and messages with Austin City Council on Sept. 1, the Austin Police Department has committed to finding funds to clear Austin’s backlog of rape kits and evidence waiting to be tested.
Over the next few days, we look forward to council members working to officially locate and approve the funding for seven additional analysts and one additional supervisor to reopen APD’s recently shuttered DNA lab. From there, we can continue working to break the cycle of backlogged evidence and move closer to expedient justice for sexual assault survivors.
For more information on what led us to this point, read “Closed DNA lab unfunded, rape kits untested, PS1.04 & PS1.07 must pass.”
Click below to watch Amy Alanis address council members on what it means for the city to prioritize rape kits.
Transcript of her testimony:
Good afternoon. I’m Amy Alanis, from District 8. I’m here today to share my support of proposed budget amendments PS1.04 and PS1.07, which would help to reopen and properly staff the APD’s DNA lab as well as help clear the backlog of sexual assault kits waiting to be tested.
Part of my personal interest in this matter is due to my connection with The SAFE Alliance. I do volunteer at SAFE’s Eloise House as a Sexual Assault Advocate. When survivors come in for sexual assault forensic exams, we see firsthand the trauma that they are experiencing. As advocates, our priority is to show survivors that they are the priority.
“Many survivors lack confidence in their public systems. The backlog of sexual assault kits waiting to be tested, and a DNA lab which has been shut down and understaffed, reinforces that lack of confidence. It tells survivors that they are not a priority.”
That’s a message many survivors haven’t heard. Many survivors lack confidence in their public systems. The backlog of sexual assault kits waiting to be tested, and a DNA lab which has been shut down and understaffed, reinforces that lack of confidence. It tells survivors that they are not a priority.
That statement has consequences. It is part of why in Texas, only 9.2 percent of sexual assault survivors choose to report to law enforcement. 9.2 percent. That is appalling.
But SAFE is working to change that. And they have succeeded through Eloise House. We are now seeing a 22% increase in requests for exams, just in the last year. That’s huge. Our message to these survivors of “you are our top priority” is being heard.
You have the opportunity to capitalize on that momentum. To continue to increase reporting rates by telling survivors that they are the priority. Passing PS1.04 and PS1.07 will tell survivors that they are. That they can trust the systems in place to bring them justice.
“Not passing these amendments will tell survivors that you don’t care about the violent crime committed against them.”
Not passing these amendments, could very well undue all the work that we as advocates have done to increase public confidence and increase reporting.
Not passing these amendments will tell survivors that you don’t care about the violent crime committed against them. That the 700 current Austinites who were traumatized by a sexual predator, 700 of our Austin neighbors, our community members, are not worthy of justice.
But even if I didn’t volunteer at SAFE, I would still feel personally vested in this issue, as we all should. This is a matter of public safety for all Austin residents.
If these kits can be tested in a timely manner, offenders can be identified sooner. That means a safer city for everyone.
Survivors of sexual assault have no choice in the violence they’ve experienced, but they do have an opportunity to take back some control in their lives by making the courageous choice to receive a sexual assault exam.
And you have an opportunity to help take back some control too. Choose to make these survivors a priority. Choose to make the crime of sexual assault a priority. Choose to make the safety of the greatest city on earth a priority. Choose to make these amendments a priority. Please vote yes to amendments PS1.04 and PS1.07.
I do appreciate this opportunity to speak with you and thank you for your consideration and your service to our community.