Ohio sex assault survivors will soon be able to anonymously track their rape kits in continuing fight for justice

Ohio sex assault survivors will soon be able to anonymously track their rape kits

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - There has been a huge step forward for sexual assault survivors in Ohio.

Survivors will soon be able to anonymously track their rape kits collected as evidence, adding transparency to their fight for justice from the crime lab to the courtroom.

Ohio, like many other states, discovered it had a rape kit backlog several years ago.

Our state analyzed nearly 14,000 untested kits in 2018.

All kits in the Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) initiative were completed in January of 2018, and there is no backlog of testing at Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations labs.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office said the current turnaround time for testing a Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) by BCI is now 25 days.

Survivors will soon get to follow their SAK through the testing process, based on a program out West.

In 2017, Idaho started the first statewide sexual assault kit tracking system in the country.

Idaho is sharing their tracking system with public agencies across the country for free.

The Idaho Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System
The Idaho Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System (Source: State of Idaho)

The Idaho Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System

The 19 News Investigative Unit is giving you a look at how it could help survivors here.

Here is the process in the Idaho system.

After a long, emotional trip to the hospital, the victim gets a kit number following her forensic exam.

The number can then be entered into the system to check the status of the kit.

The system is public, so private information like the victim's name and date of birth is not stored.

And there’s no way to connect a kit to a victim, according to endthebacklog.com.

Catching serial rapists

In the meantime, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office is taking a new approach to catch serial rapists thanks to a $100,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant.

The pilot program will take five to 10 unsolved serial rapist cases and use DNA profiles to identify the "John Doe" suspects, according to Special Investigations Chief Rick Bell.

“We'll use those and take those to a genealogical company after we set the proper procedure and we'll try to determine who those defendants are,” he said.

Bell hopes this program will help solve cases across the country.

“We don't want another backlog to occur. If we can try to find out who these people are now using these new techniques, let's do it and let's do it the right way,” he said.

There is no timeline yet for the Ohio rape kit tracking system.

We're still waiting to hear exactly what information will be available to victims.

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