An Extended Government Shutdown Threatens To Halt Rape Kits In Washington, DC


Since Washington, DC’s budget is under federal control, a prolonged government shutdown threatens to close the city’s basic programs. As the city’s resources are depleted, the services that could end include some that are intended to help rape victims, reports the Huffington Post.

Two groups responsible for D.C. adult rape kits, Network for Victim Recovery of DC and DC Forensic Nurse Examiners, anticipate running out of federal and local funds after October. In the meantime, they have had to draw from a rainy day funding, though even that will dry up if the shutdown continues another six weeks. “We will have to figure out what we are going to do about payment when the Contingency Fund runs out,” DC Office of Victims Services Melissa Hook told the Huffington Post.


The current state of congressional negotiations makes an additional six-week shutdown seem possible. House Republicans took a plan to the White House yesterday that would raise the debt ceiling for six weeks, but does not necessarily fund the government. For the government to re-open, they insist on defunding or delaying Obamacare. Senate and House Democrats have rejected any debt ceiling deal as a nonstarter unless the government is re-opened.

The widespread impact of the shutdown has hit programs related to sexual assault and domestic violence especially hard. It has shuttered domestic violence programs across the country, and has halted college sexual assault investigations. This is on top of the strain that sequestration has already put on domestic violence programs, which has meant cutting off help for 100,000 victims.

When a victim reports rape, the person receives a rape kit at a hospital to collect forensic evidence for trial as well as an advocate who helps guide him or her through the ordeal. Putting these services on hold have a life-changing impact on victims: Since forensic evidence of rape can quickly degrade, holding up rape kits mean victims will have that much harder a time navigating the court system.