The North Carolina sexual assault tracking system launches Monday. It allows victims of sexual assaults who get a forensic exam to track where their evidence is and if it’s been tested. Idaho, Arkansas and a few other states have similar systems.
It’s been somewhat of a mystery for sexual assault survivors to find out what happened to their sexual assault evidence kits and where they ended up. The shoe box size container full of DNA evidence can take hours to collect, and in some cases, can be vital to identifying a perpetrator.
The North Carolina Attorney General found earlier this year there were more than 15,000 untested kits sitting on shelves in local law enforcement agencies across the state. Now, victims will be able to use and access the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Tracking Inventory Management System, or STIMS for short. In the Attorney General’s Office YouTube video, the narrator explained how it’s supposed to work.
“STIMS will provide transparency to you, by providing a real time access to the location and status of your kit within the system website," the video said. "In addition, the website will have important resources to assist you, the survivor of a sexual assault.”
A survivor will get a serial number that matches the one on their kit when he or she gets the evidence collected. And after that, a survivor can go to the web portal, plug in the serial number, and see the status and location of the kit. The video demonstration goes on to explain that there will be both a written explanation of the kits status and a flow chart-like explanation.
“You are going to see a pictorial representation of the kit as it’s created, as it moves into the medical center," the video informed, "Once it’s been collected, it’ll move to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction.”
A victim will be able to continue to see the kits location as it moves through the rest of the testing process. As WFAE reported in the investigative podcast She Says, it can take months — if not years — for a kit to be fully tested. There’s one limitation to the tracking system: kits won't be traceable if they are collected out-of-state or sent to an out-of-state police agency.
As part of the new law that created the tracking system, a group of government officials and advocates will recommend testing protocols for future testing as well as a way to prioritize the testing of the 15,000 untested kits identified in the AG’s report.
More information on the tracking system can be found here.