Tracking system in development for evidence submitted by sexual assault survivors in Tennessee

Product of new legislation for rape survivors
Sexual assault kit
Posted at 6:34 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 19:34:55-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Jim Coley Protection for Rape Survivors Act, which took effect July 1, is requiring the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to implement a tracking system for sexual assault survivors.

"This sexual assault kit tracking system will be very helpful to them," said Mike Lyttle, TBI Assistant Director, Forensic Services Division.

The TBI began considering a tracking system even before the state legislature vote.

"We have looked at the other tracking systems out there and we were able to get with the Portland, Oregon Police Department. They've actually produced a sexual assault tracking system that we're able to get free of charge," Lyttle said.

When the Sexual Assault Management System (SAMS) Victim Portal is up and running, a person submitting evidence in Tennessee, in the form of a sexual assault kit, will get a unique code that allows them to follow the kit through the criminal justice process.

"Obviously there have been mistakes made in the past by law enforcement agencies not submitting kits as they should, so that led to a backlog of untested kits. We want things to be as victim-centric as possible. We want things to be easy on the victims throughout the process," Lyttle said.

In the meantime, other protections for sexual assault survivors are taking effect because of the new law.

Police are now required to pick up sexual assault kits from hospitals within 48 hours rather than 7 days and officers have to submit the kits for testing within 30 days instead of 60.

At the TBI, it currently takes about 24 weeks to turnaround a sexual assault kit.

"Which isn't the greatest in the world, but a year ago [or] two years ago we were around 38 weeks... We're working to provide better service to these sexual assault kits and it's something we're working through," Lyttle said.

The law requires that the tracking system be up and running before July 1, 2022.

Because kits in the past weren't labeled for tracking they will not be applicable.