Most U.S. states are adopting new systems for patients to track the forensic path of their sexual assault kits after demands from survivors and their advocates, Stateline reports. The collection of the kits can take hours, and it can take months, or even years, for investigators to process the evidence. The tracking systems aim to address historical challenges, including inadequate evidence handling. The new systems include streamlined communication between different groups involved in the process and more accountability and transparency with tracking assault kits. “The overarching purpose is to restore dignity and sort of try to tip the balance of power from folks who have been sexually assaulted,” said Colorado state Rep. Meg Froelich, a Democrat who authored her state’s rape kit tracking law.
At least 40 states and the District of Columbia have implemented or committed to establishing a sexual assault kit tracking system in the past nine years, including several coming on board this year. Alaska and Florida launched their online sexual assault kit tracking portals this summer. Colorado and Louisiana enacted legislation in May and June, respectively, to establish their own tracking systems. Sexual assault kit tracking systems are typically web portals designed to trace the kits’ movement throughout their chain of custody. Processing times for rape kits vary by state; for instance, it can take up to 120 days in Florida, 60 days in Alaska and just 30 days in Ohio. The exact scope of the rape kit testing backlog remains unclear. There are at least 59,894 untested kits in 23 states. Among the contributing factors to the backlog are victim-blaming attitudes, budget cuts, reduced crime lab staff, and bias against women and victims of sex crimes.