Mar 5, 2019

New legislation would create a statewide tracking system for sexual assault evidence kits, letting victims see where their kits are languishing.

There is an estimated 250,000 sexual assault evidence kits sitting on law enforcement shelves nationwide, said Ilse Knecht, policy and advocacy director at the Joyful Heart Foundation, a sexual assault policy and advocacy group.

“We actually don’t have a real number for that in terms of a government number or comprehensive nationwide number because most states do not count their rape kits or track them,” she said.

The cases sometimes take over a year to process and are required to pass through several different entities.

“One very important part of rape kit reform is increasing transparency and accountability around how cases are handled,” Knecht said.

A key part in a sexual assault evidence tracking system, sexual assault advocates maintain, is giving victims access to the system, she said.

“Victims in our research on victim notification told us that having access to information about their kits … is important to their feelings and then not having access to it as actually harmful,” said Knecht. “They feel like it belongs to them, their body was a crime scene … this came off of their body.”

The Illinois legislation, House Bill 1440, was sponsored by Frankfort Republican Rep. Margo McDermed. The bill was in response to a report by the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking Commission released in June 2018.