Sex assault survivors in Virginia will soon have the power to keep an eye on evidence gathered after an attack.
An online tracking system is being put in place to make sure victims stay in the know about where the evidence winds up and what happens to it.
Physical Evidence Recovery Kits, or PERK kits, are used to gather vital evidence after assaults are reported at Virginia medical centers.
If a survivor makes a criminal report, the kits wind up with police first. Law enforcement has 60 days to submit the kit for testing.
If the survivor is uncertain about their next step, then the kit goes to the state crime lab for storage.
But right now, there is no way for survivors to know where the kit is or whether testing is underway or complete. That’s why Attorney General Mark Herring and the Department of Forensic Science are rolling out a tracking system that will allow survivors to monitor what’s happened with the kit.
"It’s really important they know that kit is going to be tested, and it empowers them to check every step of the way," Herring said.
The Inova Fairfax Medical Center uses about 40 kits a month. Mary Hale, director of the Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team, said the change will bring survivors much peace of mind.
"Knowing that it can take anywhere from six to eight months to get test results back from the crime lab that can be a really anxious time for a survivor," Hale said.
Once an exam is complete, the survivor will be given an access code so they an track their kit through an online portal.
Law enforcement can also access it to keep tabs — and they will get an alert if they are taking too long to send a kit in for analysis.
Training for data entry is underway now. The tracking system will be mandatory across the Commonwealth by next July.