Cast and crew of 'Unbelievable' join lawmakers to advocate for reducing DNA, rape kit backlog
© Lisette Azar

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle joined the cast and crew of the Netflix series “Unbelievable” to highlight the issue of sexual assault at a panel discussion Wednesday night.

CBS Studios and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) hosted a viewing of the new series after RAINN activists and the show’s producers, along with its star Kaitlyn Dever, pressed lawmakers to reauthorize the Debbie Smith Act, which provides federal funding to process rape kits in an effort to decrease the national backlog of DNA evidence related to sexual assaults.

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Executive producers Susannah Grant — who is also the show’s creator — and Sarah Timberman said their efforts to promote the bill had been well received in their meetings on Capitol Hill.

In a brief interview with The Hill, Timberman said the activists were “encouraged” by their interactions with lawmakers.

“Our hope is to see [the bill] move forward sooner than later, because there’s such a backlog already. And if there’s any delay, that backlog will balloon,” she said.

Grant added that the legislation is crucial to helping victims of sexual assault.

“There are so many ways in which the system fails victims, and the Debbie Smith Act is one of the tools that really does right by the victims,” she said.

The statute is slated to expire on Sept. 30, the last day of the fiscal year. Funding for reauthorization was included in the Violence Against Women Act, which passed by the House in April but has not been taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. The Senate passed a standalone reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act by unanimous consent.

Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyDemocrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week Two budget staffers resigned after voicing concerns about halted Ukraine aid, official says On The Money: Dems say Ukraine aid documents from OMB show 'pattern of abuse' | Blue states file appeal over GOP tax law deduction cap | Dems sue Barr, Ross over census documents MORE (D-N.Y.) — the Debbie Smith Act’s original author — and Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick MORE (R-Texas), the sponsor of the Senate reauthorization measure, each spoke at Wednesday’s event and commended RAINN’s efforts to advocate for survivors of sexual violence.

“There’s nothing more important you could be doing than reauthorize the Debbie Smith Act,” Maloney said, citing studies showing that putting known rapists behind bars through DNA evidence found in rape kits can prevent repeat offenses.

She called the legislation “the most important anti-rape bill ever.”

Rep. Ann KusterAnn McLane KusterCast and crew of 'Unbelievable' join lawmakers to advocate for reducing DNA, rape kit backlog House Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment Katherine Clark quietly eyes leadership ascent MORE (D-N.H.), co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, spoke of her own experience as a victim of sexual assault.

She commended other survivors who tell their stories.

“We’ve all got to stand up for our own truth,” she said.

Updated at 3:05 p.m.