Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Soon, Texas sexual assault survivors will be able track their rape kits online
By Tessa Weinberg | July 16, 2019
Survivors of sexual assault will see an added layer of transparency later this year through a statewide database that tracks the progress of sexual assault evidence kits. And Arlington has been one of the first cities to test the new system in Texas.
Mandated by a state law passed in 2017, the database will require police departments, crime labs and medical facilities to update a kit’s location in the criminal justice system. Survivors will be able to access the online database, known as Track-Kit, anonymously. It goes into effect statewide on Sept. 1, 2019.
The database will represent the first time the state has had a comprehensive system to track sexual assault evidence kits, amid a backlog of a little more than 2,000 untested kits in Texas in 2017 and a nationwide decline of police departments’ rate of successfully closing rape investigations.
“As far as how many were collected statewide, during a given period, we just had no way to tell,” said Rebecca Vieh, a Texas Department of Public Safety program specialist for the tracking system. “And so I think that this will definitely answer that question.”
And for survivors, it will help put a sense of control back into their hands.
“It’s going to give them more information. And then in turn, when they have more information, they have more control,” said Alisha Byerly, assistant director of crisis services at the Women’s Center of Tarrant County. “And that’s what we want to give back to survivors, because basically they had all their power and control taken away from them.”