New tracking system gives survivors of sexual assault 24/7 access to test kit status

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Minnesota sexual assault survivors have access to a new program that allows them to track their cases online, and advocates say it could encourage more victims to report.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension teamed up with hundreds of medical facilities, law enforcement agencies, forensic laboratories and county attorney offices to get Track-Kit off the ground. 

The software gives survivors of sexual assault 24/7 online access to information about the status of their testing kits.

This new tracking system only applies to kits collected after the program started in each region. Track-Kit was deployed over a three-month span, starting in the Arrowhead on April 5.

RELATED: BCA unveils system to track status of sex assault kits

According to the BCA, in 2015 there were about 5,000 test kits that were not tested across the state and still needed to be examined.

The goal of this new tracking system is to make sure every kit is accounted for while giving survivors of sexual assault peace of mind.

“This is probably one of the most traumatic things they’ll experience. It takes a lot to walk through our doors,” said Amy Schmitz, who leads Allina Health’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program that serves 16 hospitals across the state.

When a sexual assault survivor decides to report, Schmitz is one of the first people they’ll see.

“We collect the evidence. We provide medications for victim-survivors. We respond with an advocate to support the patient,” she said.

Schmitz said typically after victims leave the hospital, they ask follow-up questions about the kit’s location.

“They would call me and say, ‘I don’t know where my kit is. What’s going on? What are the results?’” Schmitz said.

Through a new statewide tracking system, those answers will be at the survivor’s fingertips.

“It tracks a sexual assault examination kit from the time it leaves the BCA as a supply to go into the hospital, to the evidence examination of our victim-survivors of sexual assault and the time it goes to a law enforcement agency to a laboratory,” BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said.

Track-Kit uses a barcode system to update the kit’s status and location in real time. BCA officials explained keeping victims at the forefront of the investigation is the main focus because too many kits fell through the cracks in the past.

“There were a lot of challenges with sexual assault and investigations,” Evans said. “We saw kits that were on shelves that were untested. We saw miscommunications as to where the kit might be at any given time in the process.”

But now, the moment survivors leave the hospital, they’ll receive a card with a login and password to a secure system so they can track every step with peace of mind.

“It isn’t just a kit. This represents a person and evidence related to an assault and we want to ensure that they are treated appropriately all throughout the system,” Evans said.

The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, or MNCASA, was a primary partner in rolling out the tracking system.

Jude Foster, MNCASA advocacy, medical forensic and prevention programs director, released the following statement regarding the new system:

“A statewide tracking system is a critical resource for victims/survivors in Minnesota. This system will increase transparency and accountability for victims/survivors across the state, allowing them to track and know the status and location of their kit. MNCASA has been advocating for a statewide sexual assault kit tracking system for many years and we are grateful that it is now a tool victims/survivors can use. The statewide kit tracking system was a collaborative effort with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA), the Minnesota Hospitals Association, the Minnesota Chapter of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), and the Minnesota State Legislature. We would like to thank the many individuals and organizations who contributed to this effort.”