“Great results” from Georgia’s new sex assault tracking system

Online portal now open for sexual assault survivors to track evidence

Sexual assault survivors now have a way to track the evidence in their cases. Georgia has introduced a new evidence tracking system. IT is after thousands of rape kits turned up untested in evidence rooms and hospitals across the state just six years ago.

As of Tuesday, it has been two months since Georgia launched a new online tracking system for sexual assault evidence.

State legislatures passed the Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2021 in March last year. The law required the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to set up the tracking system so victims, attorneys and law enforcement could log in and check evidence status in sexual assault cases.

“We’ve seen some great results so far,” said Amy Hutsell, program director for CJCC’s Sexual Assault, Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Division. “My biggest impact, I think, is that we sent a really strong message to the victims and survivors in this state that we care.”

The online portal was officially launched on June 30th. Now, all sexual assault evidence in the state comes with a tracking number, and victims are assigned a PIN so they can log into the site.

“The system for tracking sexual assault kits really builds on the bipartisan work that the state has done since 2016,” said State Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, the main sponsor of the legislation. “What was crucial was to make the process as transparent as possible for the victims. It wasn’t for too long. In fact, they really were left behind. They had kits that just sat on shelves without being tested.”

Back in 2016, state lawmakers approved another Rep. Holcomb bill to require law enforcement to turn over all previously untested rape kits after it was discovered thousands had never been taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for analysis.

This law also required officers to collect evidence kits from hospitals or other providers within 3 days and submit them to the GBI for testing within 30 days.

State officials announced in November 2018 that the more than 3,500 “stored” kits had been processed.

Rep. Holcomb said the new tracking system is designed to prevent evidence from languishing in the future.

“The goal was actually twofold. Firstly, we wanted to increase transparency and secondly, we wanted a system where we could actually track what’s happening to make sure there’s never a backlog and to make sure the evidence is looked at in a timely manner,” explained Rep. Holcomb.

The new law also requires the CJCC to prepare a report for the governor and state legislature by December 31 of each year detailing the number of sexual assault kits used, the average time it takes law enforcement to recover them from healthcare providers to pick up and detail how many GBI lab has processed.

“It’s a great start to have the accountability in the system and for victims to believe it’s actually worth reporting,” said Marina Sampanes Peed, executive director and CEO of Mosaic Georgia.

Mosaic is a Gwinnett County children’s sexual assault center and counseling center that provides forensic medical evaluations for patients who have been assaulted. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) collect hair, DNA, and other evidence to then turn it over to the crime lab for testing.

Peed’s organization was one of six statewide to participate in a pilot program that began in October 2021 to test the state’s evidence tracking portal. She said they have about 180 in the system so far.

“We can track each kit and where it is. Whether it’s still with law enforcement, whether it was sent to the GBI, whether the GBI did the analysis,” Peed said. “So there’s no results from that, but it really helps to see where this is going and that’s so important because when someone has the guts to actually disclose what happened, and usually it’s from someone they know The fact that the system supports that is enormous.”

The new website also includes information on resources for sexual assault survivors. Visit www.svrga.org for more information.