For a victim of sexual assault, waiting for an update on his or her case can be a painful process on its own. But a new hotline in Utah, might help put them at ease.
The sexual assault kit information line can be used to track down and learn whether a person’s sexual assault kit has been processed by law enforcement. The kit includes evidence collected by nurse examiners during a forensic exam performed after a sexual assault has occurred.
Lauren De Vries is the victim advocate for Salt Lake County’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. She says victims can ask questions about the process and even get counseling.
“You think about how invasive an exam is and the sexual assault itself,” De Vries says. “And then to be waiting on those results can be very discouraging, can be very traumatizing or even re-traumatizing for that victim.”
De Vries says victims can also opt out of receiving updates on their cases-which can be traumatizing as well.
State and local officials have made strides in recent years to eliminate Utah’s backlog of untested sexual assault kits. In 2014, the state identified about 2700 kits that had not been submitted to the state crime lab. Crime Lab Director Jay Henry says about half of those have been tested so far with the help of state and federal funding. And Henry says the state is streamlining the testing process and added new technologies to process kits faster.
“We’re seeing every side of the case and doing the utmost that we can to make sure that we maximize the efforts of the whole system to help that victim through their case,” Henry says.
State lawmakers, earlier this year passed House Bill 200, requiring all future sexual assault kits be tested. That law takes effect in 2018. Henry says the state is working on a tracking system for victims who want to follow their cases online, similar to tracking an Amazon package. He said that should be complete before House Bill 200 takes effect next summer.