HIGHLAND — A survey of Indiana law enforcement agencies and health care providers last year found 2,560 completed sexual assault examination kits — that potentially could be used at a criminal trial — had never been submitted for laboratory testing.
The study in many ways provided concrete data backing up anecdotal stories of untested rape kits and a growing backlog statewide.
In response to those findings, the Lake County prosecutor’s office and its Sexual Assault Response Team say they are working together to reform policies at the local level.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said a series of reforms will be announced Wednesday, including the requirement that police agencies transfer completed rape kits to the Indiana State Police crime lab within 72 hours if the potential perpetrator is known.
While the ISP crime lab also is overburdened with a backlog of untested kits, Carter said it's troubling that thousands of rape kits statewide are sitting in police storage facilities untested.
In its commitment to reform, SART will start by testing every non-anonymous rape kit, according to a news release.
More details will be announced during a news conference Wednesday.
SART is a community-based effort to coordinate resources to respond effectively to sexual assault incidents, providing free comprehensive services to sexual assault victims.
The group provides forensic medical examinations to document injuries, preserves evidence that may be used to prosecute the perpetrators, and promotes public education and training for people and agencies that aid victims of sexual assault.
Gov. Eric Holcomb signed SEA 264 earlier this month, directing the Statewide Sexual Assault Response Team Advisory Council to study the feasibility of developing a rape kit tracking and testing database, including identifying which agency should manage the database and who would pay for it.
Carter said a statewide tracking system would be an extraordinarily useful tool for prosecutors in securing serious charges against repeat offenders and serial rapists.
"A lot of these people, they don't stay in Lake County. Sometimes they go to Porter County, Marion County," Carter said. "It's another tool in our toolbox."
The news conference is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Social Center at Wicker Memorial Park, 8554 Indianapolis Blvd., in Highland.