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Maryland's new sexual assault evidence tracking system to bring justice to survivors

Maryland's new sexual assault tracking system to bring justice to victims
Maryland's new sexual assault tracking system to bring justice to victims 02:22

BALTIMORE -- Maryland leaders unveiled a new online system to track sexual assault evidence kits to ensure accountability in the investigations. 

Victims and survivors can track their evidence kits online anonymously and ask questions throughout the process.

How does it work?

Gov. Wes Moore, Attorney General Anthony Brown and other lawmakers revealed the details of the new barcode tracking system for sexual assault evidence kits with the hope that survivors can track their case to the courtroom and justice. 

Every evidence kit will be tagged with a barcode after it is created. Then, the barcode will be scanned as the kit moves through the justice system.

"Today really is about ensuring equal justice for all. It's ensuring that all of us can be seen and supported, especially in times of greatest need," Moore said. "We know too often sexual assault evidence kits end up sitting in hospitals or in precincts or in labs."

Moore said he believes the state needs to assist victims better after the kit is completed. This is one way to accomplish that goal. 

Victims and survivors will be able to access the online data by using the barcode number and a password. 

From there, they can track the kits' progress, or lack thereof, through the system. 

The site also includes contact information for every hospital, police department, state's attorney's office, and laboratories that process the collected evidence.

System is active

Attorney General Brown says as of Thursday morning, 14 survivors had logged onto the site a total of 90 times. He believes this underscores the system's importance.

The site is online now where survivors and advocates can track these cases 24/7, 365 days per year. 

The administration says this is one step to ensuring justice for all victims of sexual violence.

The process

This process began in 2017 when a committee was formed to sure up the state's sexual assault investigations. 

After taking inventory, the state found that there were 5,000 backlogged kits in 2022, leaving thousands of victims and survivors without answers. 

This system hopes to add accountability to these investigations for law enforcement, and prosecutors to ultimately strengthen the relationship between investigators and the public. According to officials, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed this process down significantly.

The state then commissioned InVita Technologies to create the online system in 2023, and the site was launched seven months later.

"Now we are going to use a barcode system that is going to change everything in Maryland. It is the key to a new statewide tracking system that will provide survivors with answers," Attorney General Brown said.

All new kits created after the site launched already have a code. The state is also working to add barcodes to past kits. That process is set to be completed by 2025.

Sexual abuse survivors speak out

The governor also said that sexual assault and rape are two of the most underreported crimes in the state.

The press conference on Thursday at Maryland's State House also included survivors of sexual assault and advocates.

Angela Wharton is a survivor of sexual assault and shared her story. 

She was raped at gunpoint in northeast Baltimore in 1996, and in 2018 the evidence in her case was destroyed with no justice.

"This groundbreaking initiative represents a ray of hope for survivors like me who have endured the anguish of having their trauma dismissed and their pursuit of justice thwarted by a system that failed to protect and serve," Wharton said. "Let us stand united in our pursuit of justice, empowerment, and a future where every survivor's story is acknowledged, believed, and honored."

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