Survivors of sexual assault and rape now have one less thing to worry about. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced the implementation of a new tool that allows survivors to follow the path of their rape kit from evidence collection to forensic identification. This new technology was put in place after hundreds and thousands of rape kits were set aside or even lost prior to 2014.
After being sexually assaulted in 1988, retired Florida teacher Gail Gardner says her rape kit was one of more than 13,000 untested kits discovered in the state of Florida in 2014. The next year, the Florida Legislature ordered the backlog of untested rape kits to be cleared, resulting in a more streamlined process today that requires kits to be processed within 120 days.
“For 30 years, I didn’t know what happened to my kit. I didn’t have an idea what was next,” Gardner said.
FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass says his department’s new rape kit tracking system puts the power back into the hands of sexual assault survivors.
“Traditionally, survivors of assault had to wait too long for even basic information about the status of these kits, but no more,” Glass said.
Sexual assault kit contains swabs, vials, and other items for collecting physical evidence and DNA. Glass say sexual assault survivors can track the progress of their kit from start to finish.
″They can track it from the medical facility evidence custody, all the way to the forensic lab and analysis,” Glass said. “The survivor controls the notifications, and they can get an alert for a DNA match if one is available.”
Glass says, after a rape kit is collected, a bar code is placed on it, and survivors are given a log and password, allowing them to access a website that shows them where the kit is physically located. He says, right now, the tracking system is available in 41 Florida counties and will launch statewide in June. Currently, 400 kits are being tracked with this new technology.
The Women’s Center of Jacksonville says this is a huge win for survivors of sexual assault.
“When you hand somebody a card and say here’s an opportunity for you to track what’s happening and hold us accountable, and I can tell you we have great partnership and we are ready and willing to be held accountable for what happens to those kits because we don’t want this to ever happen again,” said Teresa Miles, with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville.
Right now, the average turnaround time for these rape kits to be processed is 92 days.
If you have been sexually assaulted, a 24-hour rape crisis hotline is available at 904-721-7273.