Illinois launches online tracking system for rape kits

The Illinois State Police has launched an online tracking system for rape kits that will allow sexual assault survivors to track evidence in new cases.

The state police, which rolled out the system in August, runs laboratories that analyze DNA evidence. The system was supposed to launch last year, but was delayed until this year, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Survivors will be given a case number for the system that will allow them to track their evidence through five steps: initial collection at a health care facility, receipt by a law enforcement agency, receipt by a forensic laboratory, laboratory analysis and when a laboratory report is sent to a law enforcement agency.

ISP did not say which healthcare centers are using the system, but said 86% of eligible facilities have submitted agreements to participate.

Officials at the University of Chicago Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Swedish Hospital in Chicago have all said they are using the system.

The system is not retroactive. Tracking numbers are assigned only for new cases, according to ISP.

Beth Hundsdorfer, a spokesperson for the police force, said survivors with cases before Aug. 14 should check with the investigating agency for more information.

Advocates say the system can boost accountability and offer survivors support and control.

“Surviving sexual assault is a traumatic experience,” said Carrie Ward, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “The transparency this system provides is empowering to victims.”

Shira Ellenberg Blanton, a sexual assault nurse examiner at Swedish Hospital, has used the system for a recent patient.

“This is one resource that I can say, here, make sure you don’t lose this,” Blanton said. “This makes it more tangible, to maybe be able to reassert some power and control over a situation that took power and control away from them.”