A bill allowing rape victims to sue their attackers in federal court for damages cleared a Senate committee Thursday, as the panel's staff estimated that only 2.5% of rapists are ever convicted of the crime.
The measure, sent to the full Senate on a voice vote by the Judiciary Committee, also contains $410 million for law enforcement and educational efforts to combat violence against women.
"The whole purpose of this legislation is to raise the consciousness of the American public," committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said at a news conference before the vote.
FBI statistics show that 102,555 rapes were reported to police in 1990. But the committee report, citing conservative estimates, said that figure reflected only 16% of such incidents, because 84% of rape victims never report the crime.
The report also found that, because of the high rate of non-reporting, only 2.5% of rapes lead to conviction of the attacker for rape.