ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — A 2021 study shows that over 100,000 rape kits in America go untested, but in New York, legislation could help survivors of sexual assault stay informed about the status of their kits.
Legislation to track rape kits has passed in the state legislature and is scheduled to be delivered to the Governor. This would allow survivors of sexual assault to track the location and progress of their kits.
It would require the Division of Criminal Justice Services to work with the Department Of Health, Division of State Police and NYS Coalition against Sexual Assault to establish a statewide electronic tracking system for rape kits.
The Coalition was once concerned that this may not provide enough protection for survivors. They referenced a case in California, where law enforcement used samples from a victim’s rape kit to investigate an unrelated crime.
But their stance on this has since changed, Max Micallef, Public Policy Director of NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault says, “As we have received further confirmation from multiple sources that confidentiality of the DNA collection will not be an issue so we are definitely excited to see this bill signed by the Governor.”
The tracking can only be accessed by the survivor or the employee whose job it is to update the status of these kits. The system will track the kits from its starting point at a healthcare facility, to the crime lab where it is analyzed and finally to the storage or destruction when all is complete.
In a statement, the sponsor of the bill Senator Alessandra Biaggi says:
“This means that survivors will have agency over their kits and can help regain their sense of self-determination and control that is often at the root of sexual assaults… The system will allow survivors to anonymously track and receive updates regarding their kit’s status and location, and ensures that records are confidential and may only be accessed by the survivor or the agency employee tasked with updating the status of the kit”