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Survivors to be able to track rape kits


An electronic tracking system will soon allow sexual assault survivors to monitor the progress of their evidence kits through the testing process.

On Aug. 28, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine convened an advisory group to help develop the system to ensure that an accumulation of untested rape kits will never again happen in Ohio.

The “Ohio Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System” will give those who have undergone a sexual assault forensic examination the option to track the status of their rape kit evidence online. 

“Sexual assault survivors have already gone through unimaginable trauma, and not knowing where their cases stand can be agonizing,” DeWine said. “This new system will empower survivors by giving them the ability to instantly and anonymously find out where their evidence is located and whether or not it has been submitted for testing.” 

Survivors who choose to use the system will be able to follow their evidence as it proceeds from collection at a medical facility, to inventory at a law enforcement agency, to analysis at a crime lab, and to storage or destruction.

Medical professionals and law enforcement officials will also have access to the system.

“Survivors can feel confident that their privacy will be protected,” DeWine said.

To help with the tracking system, Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) introduced companion bills — Senate Bill 323 and House Bill 719 — to require the Attorney General to create and maintain a statewide tracking system for the processing of the kits.

“This just seems to be the next logical step in helping survivors overcome what is most often the worst thing that has ever happened to them without having to relive it each time they want to check and see if there’s been any progress made,” Kunze said. “As we continue to help and encourage victims of sexual assault to rebuild their lives, it is imperative that we provide them the ability to check the status of the testing of their rape kits quietly and discreetly.”

The advisory group — made up of victim advocates, sexual assault nurse examiners, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and representatives from hospital associations and crime laboratories — is studying best practices and will provide advice on how the tracking system should operate.

“We are excited to see this initiative coming from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office,” said Rosa Beltre, executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence. “It is important to reform how rape kits are handled and tracked in the state of Ohio, despite the many chal­lenges and difference of opinion. We collec­tively can choose to do nothing because of funding and roadblocks, or as we have done today, we can choose to take steps within our circle of influence to make a difference. We owe this to every survivor in our state.”

The development of the program, as well as any maintenance and equipment, will be financed through Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding. VOCA funds, which are administered by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, are from federal settlements, fines, and fees and must be used to enhance victim rights and services. 

Throughout his career, Attorney General DeWine has been an advocate for victims of crime in Ohio.  After taking office in 2011, he launched the Ohio Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Testing Initiative, which resulted in the testing of nearly 14,000 old rape kits that investigators had never sent to a crime lab for DNA analysis. 

Attorney General DeWine’s SAK Testing Initiative has led to more than 5,000 hits in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), and hundreds of attackers have been prosecuted.

In response to the success of the initiative, a new law was enacted in 2015 requiring that law enforcement agencies in Ohio submit rape kit evidence to a crime laboratory within 30 days.