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State announces new rape kit tracking system

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s a game changer in how sexual assault cases are handled in Utah.

The Department of Public Safety is unveiling its new website which will let the victim monitor whether or not their rape kit has been processed.  Initiative Victim Advocate Lauren Devries says one of the biggest frustrations sexual assault survivors have to deal with is the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not officers are doing all they can.

“The Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System provides victims the ability to anonymously track their sexual assault kit, its status and its location,” DeVries says

The victim can monitor the kit by typing in the rape kit number and a date of birth.  Plus, officers from all across the state can have access to this information, no matter where the kit was collected from.

The funding for this project came from the passage of House Bill 200, sponsored by Representative Angela Romero.  Not only does the bill make the website possible, but Romero says it requires law enforcement agencies to do more to understand the mindset of the victim.

“We also wanted law enforcement to be properly trained and be trauma-centric when treating victims of sexual assault.  We also wanted those victims to know that we, as a state, care about them,” Romero says.

Scott Stephenson with Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training says there are many moving parts in a sexual assault investigation, and it’s up to each person to recognize why certain questions may be so upsetting for a victim.

“I’ve heard in interviews in the past, ‘Why didn’t you scream?  Why didn’t you fight?’ Keep in mind, it’s fight, flight or freeze.  Some people just freeze, and that’s not consent,” he says.

Stephenson says officers will be going through new video training modules and new training courses to help them improve their communication with assault survivors.