Sexual assault evidence kit portal launched as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 215
Outreach coordinator, Dr. Sarai Crain, to serve in first-ever role at the statewide level in California
LOS ANGELES – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the launch of a new online portal to allow survivors of sexual assault to track the status of their sexual assault evidence kits and the hiring of the state’s first-ever sexual assault evidence outreach coordinator, Dr. Sarai Crain, who will work directly with law enforcement, medical facilities, and other partner organizations to support local efforts to track and process sexual assault evidence. Together, these new initiatives aim to clear the backlog of sexual assault evidence at the local level, ensure timely processing of sexual assault evidence, and increase transparency and access to information for survivors.
“There is no place for sexual assault in California or anywhere,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “My office is committed to doing everything in our power to support survivors, reduce harm, and secure justice. That’s exactly what the new actions we’re announcing today are all about — increasing access to the information to which survivors are entitled under the law and supporting our local partners in their efforts to process sexual assault evidence. Dr. Crain is an essential new addition to our team and she will play a vital role in fighting to ensure sexual assault evidence is never again left to gather dust. And, as a result of the new portal, survivors will have direct access to critical information. The portal would not be possible without the tireless work of Senator Leyva, survivor leaders, and advocates across the state who are committed to standing up for those impacted by sexual violence. Together, we will continue to fight against sexual abuse in all its forms.”
“As the author of SB 215, I am so proud that California is continuing to prioritize and empower rape survivors by making sure that they are able to easily and privately find out where their rape kit is in the process,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva. “After they have already been sexually assaulted — and after they have bravely endured a long and invasive rape kit exam — it is crucial that we enable survivors to track the status of their rape kit securely whenever they wish. I thank Attorney General Rob Bonta for his partnership on this important effort, as well as our committed coalition of sponsors — District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Joyful Heart Foundation, and Natasha’s Justice Project — and supporters for testifying, tweeting, writing, and speaking out about the vital need for this survivor-centered online portal that prioritizes healing and justice.”
“After bravely undergoing a medical and forensic exam following a sexual assault, victim-survivors should have the right to know whether the evidence collected in the forensic examination kit has been tested. Managed by the Attorney General’s Office under the leadership of Attorney General Rob Bonta, this new portal provides victim-survivors the ability to track the processing of the kit,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. “For far too long, the forensic kits sat on the shelves in police evidence rooms, across this country and our state, untested. That is no longer!
“Knowledge is power and this portal gives that power to the victim-survivor. By providing access to the progress and any results through testing the sexual assault kit, victim-survivors can move forward in their healing with the peace of mind that law enforcement and our crime labs are doing their legal and statutory part in bringing justice to the victim-survivor and protecting other individuals in our community,” continued District Attorney O’Malley. “I am proud to have sponsored several pieces of legislation to bring us to this victory. I am grateful for the leadership, tenacity, and persistent work of Senator Connie Leyva, who has fought hard for several years, in the legislature and beyond, to ensure the rights, and for the empowerment of victim-survivors of sexual assault and other crimes. Thank you also to our partners, Joyful Heart Foundation and Natasha’s Justice Project.”
“Joyful Heart is thrilled that the California Department of Justice is taking new, innovative steps that empower and support survivors,” said Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation. “The creation of a position dedicated to addressing the rape kit backlog not only signals to survivors that they matter, but raises the bar for what states are willing to do to end this crisis forever. We wholeheartedly hope that all states will take note, and follow suit. In addition to this groundbreaking position, we applaud Attorney General Bonta for the launch of a victim portal to the existing rape kit tracking system. Studies have shown that granting survivors access to the status of their cases can promote healing and counter the loss of self-determination that they often experience as the result of these crimes.”
“My sexual assault evidence kit collected dust for nearly a decade after I was raped and robbed at gunpoint,” said Natasha Simone Alexenko, Survivor – Natasha’s Justice Project/VOICE Amplified. “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 the relentless pursuit of justice and commitment to survivors of sexual violence demonstrated by the California Department of Justice and Attorney General Bonta. This new portal empowers survivors and acknowledges our importance in the investigative process. Survivors matter. Public safety matters.”
The new portal — launched as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 215 in 2021 — is an easy-to-use tool that enables survivors of sexual assault to privately, securely, and electronically track the status and location of their sexual assault evidence kit, following a forensic sexual assault medical exam. As a result of the new portal, survivors are now able to learn in real-time whether their sexual assault evidence kit has been received by a law enforcement agency, is in transit to a lab, has been received by a lab, is undergoing DNA analysis, or has had DNA analysis completed. The portal also provides information on resources available to survivors. Individuals are able to access their own kit information online by entering their kit number and the name of the investigating agency. In California, kit information is typically provided to survivors upon completion of a forensic sexual assault medical exam. The California Department of Justice's (DOJ) Victims' Services Unit also provides telephone support to help individuals access information regarding their kits where needed. As a safeguard against potential misuse, the portal, among other protection measures, only allows access to status and location data and limits the number of times an individual can query the system each day. The information available on the portal draws from the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Tracking (SAFE-T) database maintained by DOJ. The data maintained in SAFE-T is limited and does not include fields for personally identifying information such as names, addresses, or dates of birth.
In 2015, DOJ created the SAFE-T database to track the statewide collection and processing of victim sexual assault evidence kits. Sexual assault evidence kits are primarily used for investigative purposes to develop a DNA profile of a potential suspect and are generally collected from survivors of sexual assault during a forensic sexual assault medical exam. Law enforcement agencies that investigate cases involving sexual assault — and public crime laboratories that analyze the evidence — are required to enter certain information into SAFE-T in order to help ensure sexual assault evidence is tracked and timely processed. DOJ issues an annual report providing a statistical summary of the data, which includes general information on the processing of the kit, the date a kit is submitted for DNA analysis, whether a kit generates a potentially probative DNA profile, and, if necessary, the reason why a kit is not tested within 120 days. Law enforcement agencies and crime laboratories have been mandated to report information on victim sexual assault evidence kits to SAFE-T since 2018. In 2021 alone, California’s public crime labs completed DNA analysis on more than 5,900 sexual assault evidence kits statewide. However, according to a 2020 statewide audit primarily focused on kits collected prior to 2018, there was a reported total of nearly 14,000 untested sexual assault evidence kits at the local level across California.
As part of the broader effort to assist law enforcement agencies, public crime laboratories, and medical facilities with addressing this challenge and ensuring sexual assault evidence is processed for DNA, DOJ's first-ever statewide-level sexual assault evidence outreach coordinator, Dr. Sarai Crain, will work to identify and remove barriers to testing, connect law enforcement agencies in need of testing assistance with public crime laboratories and private vendors, and promote awareness of public resources. The outreach coordinator position is part of DOJ’s overall strategy to increase support for survivors of sexual assault across California. Dr. Crain most recently served as the Deputy Chief for the City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention. As Deputy Chief, she developed a citywide strategic plan for gender-based violence prevention and intervention programs. From 2016 to 2020, Dr. Crain served as the Executive Director of Bay Area Women Against Rape, the nation’s oldest rape crisis center where she became a California-certified Sexual Assault Counselor in 2003. Dr. Crain earned her Doctor of Ministry degree at San Francisco Theological Seminary where her research was focused on counseling and advocacy for survivors of sexual assault. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Masters of Theological Studies degree from Pacific School of Religion.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to standing up for crime victims and survivors of sexual assault. Earlier this year, the Attorney General issued guidance to help survivors of sexual assault access resources and highlighted new efforts to support the timely processing of sexual assault evidence. Attorney General Bonta also shared information to help crime victims exercise their rights and access critical resources. In January, the Attorney General highlighted information and resources to support human trafficking survivors. Last year, he launched a matching grant aimed at assisting local authorities in reducing backlogs of unprocessed sexual assault evidence at the local level. The Attorney General also created the Office of Community Awareness, Response, and Engagement to work directly with community organizations, state and local elected officials, and members of the public as part of the office’s broader efforts to advance justice for all Californians.
General information on resources from the California Department of Justice to help address sexual assault and violence is available here. A copy of the 2020 SAFE-T annual report is available here. The 2021 SAFE-T report is forthcoming. Information on sexual assault forensic medical exams and how to obtain one is available here.
The portal announced today is accessible online at https://kitstatus.doj.ca.gov. Individuals without a sexual assault evidence kit number should contact the relevant law enforcement agency and, if necessary, may find additional information through DOJ’s Victims’ Services Unit.