COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio sexual assault survivors will soon have the option to track the status of their rape kit evidence online, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Thursday.
By entering a barcode number into a free, online program, survivors who choose to use the planned Sexual Assault Kit Tracking 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, according to a news release.
The idea is to reassure survivors that their evidence moves through the system and doesn’t wait months or, in the worst cases, is never tested, as sometimes happened in the past.
"Sexual assault survivors have already gone through unimaginable trauma, and not knowing where their cases stand can be agonizing," DeWine said in a release. "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."
Legislation introduced by State Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and State Representative Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) seeks to require all agencies involved in the chain-of-custody of sexual assault kits to participate in the tracking program, according to the release.
DeWine is also creating an advisory group to study best practices and advise how Ohio's tracking system should operate. The group will give special consideration to protecting the privacy of survivors.
“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."
The program will be financed through Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) funding. VOCA funds, administered by the Ohio Attorney General's Office, come from federal settlements, fines, and fees and must be used to enhance victim rights and services.
After taking office in 2011, DeWine launched a Sexual Assault Kit 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.
"This new tracking system will also help ensure that an accumulation of untested rape kits never happens in Ohio again," DeWine said.
The SAK Testing Initiative has led to 5,071 hits in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), and hundreds of attackers have been prosecuted, according to the release.
New law enacted in 2015 requires that Ohio law enforcement agencies submit sexual assault kit evidence to a crime laboratory within 30 days.