Locating a Rape Kit

If you are a survivor who has an open case, you can contact the police detective or prosecutor assigned to your case for more information about the status of your kit and case. You can also inquire whether your jurisdiction has a backlog and if your kit is part of that backlog. It may be beneficial to ask for the police report number, the criminal court case number (if one has been assigned), or any "tracking" number associated with the rape kit in order to have reference numbers when calling for future updates. Some survivors have had success accessing information about their kits, but generally only after making several inquiries, which can be time-consuming and frustrating. 

Other survivors have found it helpful to work with victim advocates from their local sexual assault crisis center. Advocates can make phone calls and arrange meetings and often have working relationships with the local police and prosecutors. They have been trained on what questions to ask and how to ask those questions

Most survivors have no other way to track the status of their rape kits, but there has been increased discussion about the ability to do so. As part of its reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Congress also passed the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act, which provides state and local governments with funding to conduct one-year audits of the untested rape kits in their possession and upload data on every individual rape kit into a national web-based registry that will be accessible to the public. 

To protect survivors’ privacy, the registry will not include any “personally identifiable information or details about a sexual assault that might lead to the identification of the individuals involved.” Each kit will be assigned a unique identifier and also identified by the date after which the statute of limitations would bar prosecution. While the registry will allow the public to track the progress of backlog testing in jurisdictions that participate, it stops short of allowing individual survivors to track their kits. 

Some states, like California and Texas, have stated in their victims’ bill of rights—a codified set of legal rights for crime victims—that survivors of sexual assault have a right to information about their rape kits. In Texas, as an example, the state legislature recently added to the crime victims’ bill of rights that if requested, a survivor has a right to information regarding the status of any testing of her or his rape kit, including submission of the kit to a crime lab, comparison of evidence with profiles in a DNA database and results of the comparison, unless the disclosure will interfere with the investigation of the assault. While, unfortunately, a survivor has no recourse should law enforcement fail to comply with the legislation, this is a step toward empowering survivors with greater access to information about their rape kits.

If law enforcement is investigating your case or preparing it for trial, they may not be able to answer all of your questions immediately. At times, law enforcement has to withhold certain information from victims or other potential trial witnesses in order not to taint the case or cause problems for future trial procedures. For example, if law enforcement gives a victim too much information before a line-up or other identification procedure, a defense attorney can argue that the identification is not admissible at trial. In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, law enforcement may not be able to give you all the information they have. Working with a victim advocate can be helpful for navigating this process. 

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