IOWA (KWWL) – By next summer, Iowa will likely have a new system designed to track rape kits in the state.
It’s called Track-Kit, established by the company STACS-DNA, and would provide status updates to victims, law enforcement, medical professionals, etc.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in a news release today, “This software will increase accountability and transparency throughout the process.”
In 2017, the Attorney General’s office conducted an audit that found 4,200 rape kits untested in Iowa. Many of them sitting in storage at police department’s and sheriff’s offices. Many advocates worried about the extra burden the unknown could put on sexual assault survivors.
“I’m really hoping that what ultimately happens is there won’t be a backlog like this,” said Brandi Lewin, the Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator for the Riverview Center, which provides sexual assault services to 14 counties in northeast Iowa.
Lewin sees the tracking system as a great tool for investigators but also as a weigh to empower victims in that they’ll be able to directly check the status of their kits.
It can also assist law enforcement who rely on the analysis of a rape kit for their investigations.
“This will help tell us where that process is, because sometimes it is the key component to your investigation,” said Cedar Falls Public Safety Director Jeff Olson.
Rape kits are performed by trained, medical professionals like those at UnityPoint’s Allen Hospital Child Protection Center. A standard kit aims to answer a number of questions through collection of DNA evidence with swabs, collection of clothing, and more.
“We’re thinking about the time from the last contact, where the contact was made, and what kind of contact so what kinds of bodily fluids that kind of thing,” said Kortney King, a sexual assault nurse examiner, SANE, at the center.
It goes without saying that the kits are invasive, which is why providers aim to explain every step to a patient.
“We talk about that nothing should hurt them, and we talk about it in a way that is understandable because we see kids of all ages,” said Elise Heying who’s one of the center’s pediatric nurse practitioners.
All of their cases are done based on referrals, either by law enforcement or Iowa’s Department of Human Services.
Once a kit is complete it leaves the hands of a medical professional and often into that of a law enforcement officer who will then deliver it to a crime lab.
DNA analysis can often take a number of days or even weeks to be completed. Even then, it doesn’t guarantee a conviction if there isn’t sample DNA from a suspect to compare it to.
The program is set to roll out to all regions of Iowa by July 1st, 2020.