The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App

Rape Victim Takes Justice Plea to Senate

"Each box holds within it vital evidence that is crucial to the safety of women everywhere," Debbie Smith said at the hearing.
Debbie Smith was home in March of 1989 when a masked man abducted her, dragged her to nearby woods and repeatedly raped her.

"After he let me live I wished he killed me," Smith old CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian.

Today, on Capital Hill, Smith and other witnesses implored a Senate panel to eliminate the alarming backlog of untested rape kits nationwide.

"Each box holds within it vital evidence that is crucial to the safety of women everywhere," Smith said at the hearing.

Last month a CBS News investigation found more than 20,000 rape kits nationwide in major American cities that were never tested. An additional 6,000 were languishing in crime labs - waiting months, even years to be tested.

"We need to be figuring a way to get our local law enforcement up to where they need to be," Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said.

Rape in America, Justice Denied
Watch: Many Rape Kits Go Untested
Rape Kit Data, By the Numbers
Untested Rape Kits Lead to More Crimes

"They solve homicides, they solve many, many rape cases," said Linda Fairstein, who led the Manhattan District Attorney's Sex Crimes Unit for 26 years.

Fairstein spearheaded New York's decision to test every single rape kit. The result: an arrest rate for rape of 70 percent today -- nearly triple the national average.

"We need to find, identify, test, and get results on every rape kit that exists in this country," Fairstein said.

Several senators today called for strengthening a 2005 bill designed to reduce the backlog of rape kits that sit untested. It's a bill named after none other than Debbie Smith.

"Can you imagine going through an exam like what goes on in one of those things for nothing? To know that you were just traumatized again, for it to sit on a shelf, it's not fair," Smith said.

For Smith justice finally came with a DNA match of a prisoner in Virginia -- 6 1/2 years after her attack. Justice is still missing for thousands of other women across the country.