Today, Houston City Council passed an ordinance that seeks to address the City of Houston’s backlog of 4,000-6,000 rape kits. These kits, which have not been tested due to lack of resources, contain vital pieces of evidence that can be used to apprehend violent criminals. “We lose sight of the fact that the kits represent people,” said Cohen. “Thousands of people who have been sexually assaulted went through one of the worst things you can go through and then had to endure the indignity of a rape kit,” she continued. “It’s not 10 minutes behind a screen; it’s a long, laborious, embarrassing procedure.”
The ordinance will generate funding by imposing a $5 fee on operators of adult entertainment establishments based on their number of daily customers. It is anticipated that this will raise approximately $1-3 million per year.
“We have to do something to help the thousands of women, children and men who have been sexually assaulted,” said Cohen. “If we test one rape kit and bring one rapist to trial, we may also be solving numerous other cases. Rapists do not rape just once. They rape over and over again until they’re caught.”
Council Member Cohen served for 18 years as the CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center, which provides services for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. She was also appointed by President Bill Clinton to the National Violence Against Women Advisory Council, and served two terms in the Texas State Legislature prior to her current role as the Houston City Council Member for District C.