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New website will help decrease Iowa rape kit backlog

A new website, www.IowaSAKI.com, provides law enforcement and sexual assault survivors with information and resources regarding the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. (Photo courtesy CBS News)

Back in May of 2015 when the national Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) began, Iowa inventoried approximately 4,000 untested rape kits. Since then, law enforcement has been chipping away at them. Now, Iowa is one of the first states in the nation to have a site dedicated to the initiative, with local resources and an option that empowers survivors.

The new website www.IowaSaki.com is a one-stop shop for the progress updates on the state's sexual assault initiative, with a list of the number of tested kits, DNA profiles developed, and DNA database hits.

It also provides law enforcement with resources to conduct trauma-informed investigations.

Abby Michael, a sexual assault advocate for Riverview Center in Marion, says the website is user-friendly.

"I think it'll be really helpful for people who have their kits go through this initiative," said Michael.

Most uniquely, it gives survivors the option to enter their information and get notifications when their kit is tested.

Also - the option to "opt out" of knowing the results of their test.

"It's just about the choices that they want to make for themselves," said Michael. "They had that power taken away from them previously. So we just want to make them feel like they are in control of the process."

While the choice to opt out empowers the survivors, it also allows law enforcement to push other kits through the process with more urgency.

"If someone opted out and we had not submitted or had that kit submitted for analysis, we would not prioritize that because we currently do not have the funding to test every kit that we inventory," said Robert Hamill, Crime Victim Compensation and SAE Administrator for the Iowa DOJ.

Survivors who get a rape kit done may not want the results later for several reasons. Many times, they do not want to reopen wounds.

And though the "opt-out" kits may be put lower on the priority list, they can still be helpful if tested because they may be a match to another incident.

"When you analyze the kit if you get the DNA, it may provide help to some other cases where the individual was unknown," said Hamill.

Over the coming months, Iowa plans to submit the sexual assault kits from the inventory process for testing with a private DNA lab at the rate of about 50-100 per month.

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