Michigan’s new rape kit tracking system: What it means for survivors

By Kristen Jordan Shamus | December 5, 2018

If the U.S. Postal Service can track a package from the moment it is mailed until it arrives on a customer’s doorstep, the Michigan criminal justice system should be able to do the same when it comes to rape kits.

At least that was the thinking of a coalition that came together in 2015 to brainstorm ways to ensure that the backlog of thousands of untested rape kits found in an abandoned Detroit storage locker in 2009 were not only tested, but that the situation never happens again.

The outcome is a new statewide Internet-based sexual assault kit tracking system, called Track-Kit, which is in use now in nine Michigan counties and will roll out in phases to the rest of the state through the summer of 2019, Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday.

It will allow rape victims to confidentially follow their own sexual assault test kits from the moment they are collected all the way through the investigation process.

A huge issue of any kind of victimization, and it’s certainly also true in sexual assault, is that their power and control of their own being and their own body has been stripped of them, literally and figuratively,” said Debi Cain, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Division of Victim Services and co-chair of the gubernatorial-appointed Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board. “Being able to access where their kit is … re-installs the power with them. They have control over where that kit is and what the status of it is and those kinds of things. It’s one of many steps we hope will be very important to a victim’s knowledge, and knowledge is power, but also to their healing process.”

The state piloted the program earlier this year in Calhoun County, and in November, began using it in nine counties in southwest Michigan — Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren.

The entire state should be using Track-Kit, which was acquired from STACS DNA, by the summer.

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