State goes live with sexual assault kit tracking software

The Alaska Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced that the Sex Assault Kit Tracking System has gone live statewide, empowering survivors of sexual assault and abuse to be able to track the status of their testing kit securely online.  

This software will allow survivors to follow the progress of their kit in a way that is meant to be the least invasive and traumatic for survivors. 

“My administration was proud to eliminate the backlog of untested sexual assault kits shortly after taking office and we are providing the Department of Public Safety, Law, and Corrections with the resources that they need to make our state a safer place,” said Gov. Mike Dunleavy. “While there is still more work to do to address the scourge of sexual assault that plagues our state, this is a positive step in the right direction.” 

DPS said employees worked with Sexual Assault Response Team nurses and the Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Lab — as well as law enforcement agencies across the state, prosecutors, and survivors to ensure the software was tailored to meet Alaska’s needs. 

DPS started implementing this new software regionally in early June, and going forward every sexual assault kit collected in the state will be trackable in this new system. 

“After the State of Alaska completed the processing of our untested sexual assault kits from across the state, one of the recommendations from the working group was to enable this trauma informed tracking system for survivors,” said DPS Commissioner James Cockrell. “This new system will allow a survivor that has submitted a kit to view the status and location of their kit without contacting the law enforcement officer investigating the crime.” 

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Survivors will receive instructions on how to access the tracking system when their evidence kit is collected by a specially trained medical professional.  

Sexual assault has long plagued Alaska. In fact, the state has some of the highest rates of sexual assault in the entire country.  

The 2020 iteration of the quinquennial Alaska Victimization Survey conducted by The Alaska Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center estimates that 57.7% of Alaska women had experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both during their lifetime.  

Research from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service in 2008 found that Alaska Native and American Indian women experience sexual violence at higher rates than white and Black women. Research from the National Institute of Justice in 2016 shows that about half of Alaska Native and American Indian women experience sexual violence, and recent statistics from across the United States also demonstrate this. 

The Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, the Indian Law Resource Center, and National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center sent a report to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to the General Assembly on the Impact of COVID-19 on indigenous peoples in 2020 highlighting violence against indigenous women, particularly Alaska Native women. The report said that indigenous women are battered, raped, murdered, and disappear at higher rates due to their gender and race. 

In 2016 an inventory review initiated by the office of former Gov. Bill Walker found that there was a backlog of thousands of untested sexual assault evidence kits. The state received $1.09 million in federal grant money from the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative to address the issue, and announced in December 2021 that the backlog of thousands of untested sexual assault examination kits had been cleared. 

If you are a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, or sexual violence you can find support from the Cordova Family Resource Center at https://www.cordovafamilyresourcecenter.org, via their 24-hour helpline at 907-424-HELP(4357), or by texting help line at 1-860-407-8001. Additional statewide resources can be found at the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault’s website at https://dps.alaska.gov/CDVSA/Services. If you are in need of immediate help or assistance, call 911. 

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