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Sex assault victims in Salt Lake County can now get information about the status of their rape kits

Published July 20, 2017 9:34 am

An information line will answer victims' questions about their cases, thanks to help from a federal grant.
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Taylorsville • As work continues to eliminate Utah's backlog of untested sexual assault kits, state officials announced Wednesday a new hotline and support for victims seeking updates about their cases.

Victims who have undergone a sexual assault kit examination have the right to be informed about their cases, victim advocate Lauren De Vries said. That includes knowing the status of their rape kit in the testing process and knowing whether a suspect DNA profile has been obtained.

Salt Lake County and state officials announced Wednesday that a federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant helped create an information line with De Vries there to answer questions from victims.



However, De Vries said that while the grant is limited to Salt Lake County, she will help anyone who reaches out — by calling her at 801-893-1145 or emailing her at ldevries@utah.gov — get connected with the right resources.

"We encourage and want victims, survivors to contact that information line and receive information updates or the current state of their sexual assault kit," De Vries said during a news conference held at the state's crime lab.

Salt Lake County was one of 20 locations picked for the federal SAKI grant in 2015. State officials say they have applied for their own federal grant to offer victim resources statewide.

The hotline and victim resources are just the latest in an ongoing effort to improve how officials respond to reports of sexual assault. In 2014, a state working group identified 2,690 sexual assault kits that had not been submitted to the crime lab for testing. More than 1,500 came from Salt Lake County.

The Department of Public Safety says state and federal money has been spent to test all of these kits — and about half have been tested thus far.

Additionally, state lawmakers earlier this year passed a law mandating that all current sexual assault kits be sent to the crime lab for testing. That law takes effect July 2018.

Utah Crime Lab Director Jay Henry hopes to have an online tracking system in place for victims before mandatory testing becomes law. This would allow victims to receive information about the status of their sexual assault kits in a "convenient" way, he said.

"That will allow the victim to be able to track their kit from collection all the way up to prosecution," Henry said. "It's a frustration that victims have had. [They ask], 'Where's my kit? What's the progress on my kit?' "

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said that as more of the backlogged kits are tested, his office has looked at 71 potential cases. So far, it has filed charges against nine alleged perpetrators.

He explained that prosecutors can be limited in filing charges for a variety of reasons, such as if the victim no longer wants to participate or if the case has passed time limits imposed by the statute of limitations.

"The science is here," Gill said. "The resources are here. And it's a manifest injustice that we are not processing these cases through."

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires expects the efforts to help make it easier for victims to come forward.

"We need more of them to report their crimes," he said. "We need them to come forward, to feel supported enough by those of us who are serving in law enforcement that they can make it so those predatory criminals who are out there amongst us are identified and put into the criminal justice system so we can prevent them from victimizing others."

jmiller@sltrib.com —

Sexual assault kit information line

P Victims of sexual assault can call 801-893-1145 or email victim advocate Lauren De Vries at ldevries@utah.gov for information about their rape kits. State officials say they want to offer information to survivors about their cases and provide them an opportunity to receive that information on their own terms.

 

 

 

 

 

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