"There are times [when] it feels very old, and there are times when it feels like it happened yesterday. If I could know that the kit was available and could be tested even 25 years later, and the DNA could be identified as belonging to a certain person, I would be able to have that information [for] the rest of my life. For me, it isn’t at all about whether prosecution is still an option; it is about closure."
- Survivor who never received information about her kit
As states and local jurisdictions begin to analyze the untested kits sitting in their storage facilities—some for years and even decades—they are faced with the challenge of reaching back out and re-engaging survivors whose rape kits were part of the backlog. Few jurisdictions have official, written policies for notifying survivors about the status of their kits, which often results in piecemeal procedures that can be re-traumatizing for survivors.
Given a lack of research suggesting best practices for victim notification, officials are left to answer many difficult questions for themselves. They must decide whether to notify survivors whose cases will not move forward in the criminal justice system, how to contact survivors and what support and resources to offer those who will receive news of their rape kits. With little resources and information on the process, they try to anticipate how survivors might react to being re-engaged in their cases or to receiving news that the perpetrator is still at large because the rape kit was never tested.
Without the voices of survivors, it would be impossible to create truly survivor-centered notification procedures. Yet, there has been no research to capture survivors’ experiences with notification, and the impact it can have on their healing processes. In speaking with stakeholders from across the country, we have consistently heard about the critical need for research on what information, support and services, if any, survivors want and need during the notification process.