RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia will soon have a new system to track the evidence in sexual assault cases.
Attorney General Mark Herring announced the new tracking system Friday morning alongside victims advocate groups.
“When I came into office, I learned that there were some 3,000 untested PERK kits in Virginia, which was unacceptable.”
PERK stands for physical evidence recovery kit, and a new system will enable everyone involved to track them a lot better.
It puts the victim at the center of an information network that will be statewide by next summer, connecting them with law enforcement, hospitals, and the department of forensic science that does the actual testing.
Groups that advocate for sexual assault victims are applauding the announcement.
“A key component of crime victims rights is access to timely notification and information,” said Cristi Lawton, Executive Director of the Virginia Victim Assistance Network. “We really feel that this system brings that concept into the 21st century.”
And while the rape kit backlog isn’t yet down to zero, Herring says that day is coming soon.
“Most of them have been delivered to the lab for testing, and I hope that soon we will be able to celebrate when every single kit is tested.”
Lawton says it will help encourage victims of sexual violence to come forward.
“(It will) build confidence in the system and provide victims with the type of information that they are certainly entitled to. It is their information.”
“It really gives them so much more control, which is so important in responding to sexual violence,” Herring said.
Other victim support groups say it will make it easier for victims to access vital help in the community.
“When survivors log into that system to view their information, they are also being connected to advocacy services where they might not otherwise have been,” said Jonathan Yglesias, Policy Director for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.
The rape kit tracking system is now part of a soft launch, but it will be mandatory for all law enforcement agencies in Virginia by July of next year.