Senate Passes Leyva Bill Requiring Online Portal for Rape Survivors to Track Their Rape Kits

SB 215 Empowers Survivors and Strengthens Public Safety

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

SACRAMENTO – With strong bipartisan support, the California State Senate passed legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will require the addition of a new online portal to California’s existing rape kit tracking system to allow survivors of sexual assault to privately and electronically track and receive updates regarding the status, location and information regarding their rape kit.

“SB 215 prioritizes healing and justice by empowering rape survivors to receive an update on their rape kit without ever needing to interact with another person,” Senator Leyva said.  “After being raped and then undergoing an invasive rape kit exam, a survivor should certainly not be forced to call or visit law enforcement in order to find out the status of their sexual assault analysis.  I thank my Senate colleagues for supporting this important measure that will empower rape survivors and strengthen public safety.” 

SB 215 would add a survivor portal to California’s existing rape kit tracking system—the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Tracking (SAFE-T) database—to ensure an uncomplicated option for survivors to learn important timely information regarding their rape kits.  California law currently requires law enforcement and forensic laboratories to use the California Department of Justice’s SAFE-T evidence system to maintain and update information about the location and testing status of all newly collected rape kits. At the request of a sexual assault survivor, state statute specifies that the law enforcement agency shall inform the survivor of the status of the DNA testing of the rape kit evidence or other crime scene evidence from the survivor’s case. Without a way for survivors to track their own rape kit online, though, the current process is burdensome and not private.  Survivors must presently contact law enforcement agencies by phone, in person or through any other form of direct contact to receive an update on their kits, which is clearly not a survivor sensitive process. 

Jointly sponsored by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Joyful Heart Foundation and Natasha’s Justice Project, SB 215 would ensure that California joins over two dozen states across the nation that have already implemented similar online rape kit tracking portals.  The full list of states that have developed a rape kit tracking system is available on the End the Backlog website.

“Sexual assault survivors should have the right to know whether their evidence kits have been tested. After bravely undergoing an exam after an assault, this bill will provide survivors with the ability to track the kit and the peace of mind to ensure that law enforcement is doing their statutory duty to analyze the evidence in a timely manner,” stated District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. “I want to thank Senator Leyva for authoring this important legislation and the California State Senate for passing it, as well as co-sponsors the Joyful Heart Foundation and Natasha’s Justice Project for continuing to prioritize the rights of sexual assault survivors.”

“We are proud to stand alongside longtime champion Senator Leyva and our partners Natasha Alexenko and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O' Malley in support of SB 215, which would create a new portal within the state's current rape kit tracking system to allow survivors to have access to information about the status of their sexual assault kit. Our survivor-focused research shows that giving survivors a choice about how to receive information about their case can help counter the loss of self-determination and control at the core of the sexual assault experience. Creating a portal for survivors to check the status of their kit at their convenience can give survivors the control they need to heal on their own terms,” said Joyful Heart Foundation Director of Policy & Advocacy Ilse Knecht.

“My sexual assault evidence kit collected dust for nearly a decade after I was raped and robbed at gunpoint. I was unaware of the fact that my rape kit had not been processed. In the interim, the man that assaulted me was on a nationwide crime spree, putting lives in danger. I am inspired by Senator Leyva and her team’s relentless pursuit of justice for survivors of sexual violence. This essential legislation empowers survivors and acknowledges our importance in the investigative process. Survivors matter. Public safety matters,” noted Natasha’s Justice Project Founder Natasha Alexenko.

Senator Leyva previously authored legislation signed into law to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape (SB 813), criminalize sextortion (SB 500), ban secret settlements in cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sex discrimination (SB 820) and require the prompt testing of rape kits (SB 22).

Supported also by Leda Health, National Association of Social Workers / California Chapter, Prosecutors Alliance of California, Riverside Sheriffs’ Association and San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, this measure next proceeds to the California State Assembly for consideration.