Sexual assault victims to soon be up-to-date with Virginia’s new rape kit tracking system

VIRGINIA - A new tracking system is set to launch that will allow sexual assault victims and law enforcement to stay up-to-date with the status of a rape kit in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The new system is a combined effort between Attorney General Mark Herring's office and the Department of Forensic Science. The new system had a soft launch in June 2019. The system will be mandatory on July 1, 2020.

“In years past, survivors often had no idea whether their kit had actually been tested, and we found out it often hadn’t been, which is so disrespectful to a survivor and really undermined trust in the system," Herring said in a statement. "We’ve made so much progress over the last few years to empower survivors, improve communication and transparency, and implement trauma-informed, survivor-centered, practices, and this new system is going to be yet another big step forward."

Related: Virginia Attorney General warns about at-home rape test kits 

With this new system, survivors, as well as hospitals, labs and law enforcement agencies, will know exactly what’s happening with a kit, where it's physically located and where it is in the testing process at any given moment.

The move is already getting praise from Samaritan House in Virginia Beach, an organization that provides resources to victims of violence and sexual assault.

"Samaritan House is extremely encouraged by this new tracking system for PERK Kits because it allows for accessibility and accountability for the process of as well as a home for peace of mind for those victims of sexual assault," Katherine Ashford, the outreach education specialist for Samaritan House, said.

The organization does not carry out the PERK Kit procedure, but refers to victims to other organizations that do.

“To be victimized by someone, to have your autonomy taken away from you, to be treated lesser than," Ashford said, "for lack of a better phrase, is frustrating."

The system will notify law enforcement through a tracking number when collected kits have not been submitted in a timely manner for analysis.

Each agency handling the kit will be required to update the state of the kit. The system will also not store a victim's personal information, and access will be restricted.

The Attorney General's Office said the system will cost $100,000, which will be covered entirely thanks to a $2 million Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant the Commonwealth received in 2017.

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