New sexual assault kit tracking program makes progress more transparent

ST. PAUL, MN. (KBJR 6) — For many survivors of sexual assault, tracking assault test kits can be a difficult process.

Now, a new program aims to make things more transparent and help survivors heal.

After a person has been sexually assaulted, a rape kit or forensic examination is performed.

These test kits can be used in criminal investigations and prosecutions.

“Previously, after this review at the hospital, there was really no transparency and no insight into where this kit was in the process,” said Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension superintendent Drew Evans.

Now, with a system known as the Track-Kit deployed by the Minnesota BCA, surviving victims will have 24/7 access to their test kit’s progress.

Using a unique barcode, surviving victims can see updated information about a kit’s status and location at any time.

The medical facility picking up a test kit scans the kit’s barcode into the Track-Kit system.

Then law enforcement agencies update the status of the kit when it is sent for testing in forensic labs.

The lab then updates the status when it receives the kit and when testing is complete.

At any point in this process, surviving victims use a unique ID and password to see the status of their kit.

Minnesota’s BCA said this program will help provide transparency for victims and survivors.

“There is no one magical thing that will be done to ensure we have justice and serious investigations in all cases, but it is another step to ensure that the surviving victims get justice and proper attention,” Evans said.

Rollout of the program began in Northland in April.

“It was because of the strong partnership we have with the Duluth Police Department and PAVSA in this area, and the relationship we’ve had as this area of ​​the state has really taken a proactive approach to dealing with the kits. sexual assault review that haven’t been reviewed in the past,” Evans said.

Sara Niemi, executive director of PAVSA, said the new program is important because it gives survivors some leeway in what is usually a highly emotional process.

“It not only helps a survivor themselves, advocate for their own needs or wishes, but it also helps our advocates potentially connect with law enforcement and build community bonds,” Niemi said.

Ultimately, Niemi said the program was a necessary step in the fight for justice for victim survivors.

“So it will be a tool for them to have those answers and know what questions they should be asking other community partners,” Niemi said.

Funding for the program came from a grant from the Department of Justice.

Surviving victims will still have access to their kit information, even after testing is complete.

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Ryan H. Bowman