California launches site to track rape kit results after police delays

California on Tuesday launched a website that allows victims of sexual assault to track the status of their medical exam results — an effort to address widespread complaints about wait times due to backlogged cases at health services. local police.

The online portal, hosted by the California Department of Justice, allows victims to search the results of rape kits completed after 2018.

Forensic sexual assault exams are done in hospitals and sent to local law enforcement, which is responsible for linking DNA to the perpetrators. But in California and across the country, the evidence has sat on police and sheriff’s department shelves, in some cases untested for years.

Nearly 14,000 sexual assault exam kits had yet to be tested in California in 2020, according to a report by the state attorney general.

Last month, the attorney for a woman who accused three former San Diego State football players of raping her at a party last year sued the city, demanding more information. , including DNA results, from police nearly a year after his rape examination. been conducted.

The state’s new website is the result of legislation drafted by Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), signed into law last year by Governor Gavin Newsom.

SB 215 requires the state to allow victims to verify the status and location of their exams “privately, securely, and electronically.”

Proponents of the bill, including the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, said the process of tracking rape kits was “cumbersome and not private,” requiring victims to contact law enforcement by telephone or in person.

“Having already been sexually assaulted – and after bravely enduring a lengthy and invasive rape kit examination – it is crucial that we enable survivors to securely track the status of their rape kit whenever they choose,” Leyva said.

California Attorney. Gen. Rob Bonta, who is up for re-election next week, said in a statement Tuesday that the new website, along with a state-appointed program coordinator, will help eliminate local backlogs and “ensure proper treatment.” rapid” evidence.

“My office is committed to doing everything in our power to support survivors, reduce harm and secure justice,” Bonta said. “This is exactly the purpose of the new actions we are announcing today: to improve access to information to which victims are entitled under the law and to support our local partners in their efforts to process sexual assault evidence. .”

Bonta’s office said the site is secure because users must have a kit number to access the data.

“To guard against potential misuse,” the portal only provides the location of the kit and its status in the collection process — not personally identifiable information about victims, Bonta said.

Los Angeles Times

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