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California Allows Sexual Assault Victims To Track Rape Kits Online

After delays in testing evidence from sexual assaults, California officials said they have created a way for survivors to track the progress of linking their rape kits with DNA evidence. The new online tracking system was required under a law approved by state lawmakers last year, the Associated Press reports. Law enforcement agencies will be required to submit the evidence for testing within 20 days and crime labs must test it within 120 days or provide reasons for any delay. The goal is to end the backlog of rape kits, make sure they are quickly tested, and keep survivors better informed, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said. Of the 6,400 kits collected in 2020, 90 percent were analyzed by May 2021. The rest were in various stages of processing. About half of the tests found DNA compared to other DNA on the FBI's database, resulting in about 800 matches with offenders.


Nearly 200 kits were not submitted for testing because the suspect was already known or the victim was not seeking to prosecute. The online system provides information to survivors on the status of their sexual assault evidence collected since Jan. 1, 2018. Victims can track whether their kits have been received, are being sent to a lab for testing, or are undergoing DNA analysis. California is among 30 states and Washington, D.C., that have committed to establishing a tracking system. However, "that doesn't address the older kits that are some places still sitting on shelves," said Ilse Knecht of the Joyful Heart Foundation. A 2020 audit of kits collected before 2018 found 14,000 untested kits across the state. Knecht will propose that California legislators pass a law next year requiring local agencies to test those old kits.

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