(WASHINGTON, DC) – The Bowser Administration recently launched a custom-made Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Tracking Database that supports and enhances the District’s victim-centered approach to sexual assault investigations and services. The Sexual Assault Evidence Kit also referred to as a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK) in the District, is used to collect evidence during a sexual assault forensic exam. Funded by the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants (OVSJG), the database ensures that every sexual assault evidence kit in the District is accounted for at every step in the process, from evidence collection at the hospital through completion of forensic testing.
This database tracks the status of each kit from the moment a survivor of sexual assault obtains a forensic exam through the point at which forensic results are reported to law enforcement and provides information and transparency for victims at every step,” said OVSJG Director Michelle M. Garcia. “The launch of the kit tracker is the culmination of the multidisciplinary efforts of several District agencies and community-based partners and reflects Mayor Bowser’s commitment to improving outcomes for survivors of sexual violence and building a safer, stronger DC.”
The database also allows the District to verify compliance with the 90-day kit testing requirements of Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Act of 2014 (SAVRAA).
“The testing of sexual assault kits is a top priority for our forensic scientists at the Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS), and our department has maintained a zero backlog of kits for more than two years now – something that very few other jurisdictions around the country have been able to do. Every day we strive to obtain the most accurate information in the most efficient manner possible, and this tracking database will enhance our communications with survivors to get them the important information they deserve to have,” said DFS Director Dr. Jenifer Smith.
Agencies that will use the database, and participated in the development of it, includes DFS, DC Forensic Nurse Examiners (DCFNE), Children’s National Medical Center’s Child and Adolescent Protection Center (CAPC), the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). Most notably, the database features a survivor portal through which survivors can track their kit by entering their Sexual Assault Evidence Kit’s tracking number issued to them by the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). In most communities, victims receive little to no information on the status of their kit once they have released it to law enforcement making the District a leader in victim-centered responses to sexual violence.
“After a sexual assault, a survivor often has to navigate unfamiliar systems, make difficult decisions, and remember numerous details, all while healing from the trauma they experienced. Knowing the status of their evidence kit can provide a survivor with some peace of mind during a difficult time. We are so glad that we can offer this to our patients,” said DCFNE Executive Director Colleen Gallopin.
Development of a kit tracking system was one of the recommendations made by the SAVRAA Task Force in their 2016 report. In April 2017, Mayor Bowser introduced legislation, the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act of 2017, to further enhance the District’s response to sexual violence and address additional recommendations made by the Task Force. Mayor Bowser will be re-introducing the SAVRAA bill in January 2019.
For more information about SAVRAA 2014, visit ovsjg.dc.gov.