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SC sexual assault kit tracking system goes live in Piedmont and Lowcountry

FILE - This Feb. 8, 2017, file photo, sexual assault evidence collection kits are shown during committee meeting. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File )
Rick Bowmer/AP
FILE - This Feb. 8, 2017, file photo, sexual assault evidence collection kits are shown during committee meeting. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File )

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is two months into a pilot program using a tracking system to help investigate instances of sexual assault.

The Sexual Assault Kits (SAK) Tracking, or Track-Kit, system was rolled out in the PeeDee and Midlands in December and January, respectively. Tuesday, it went live in the Upstate and Lowcountry regions.

SLED says the purpose of the system is to further empower survivors with information, assist law enforcement with investigations and crime prevention, and create transparency and foster public trust.

A 2023 investigation by Fox Carolina revealed that an estimated 3,000 sexual assault kits are untested in South Carolina. Law enforcement officials and victim advocates are hopeful that the new program will help to lower those numbers.

According to a semiannual report released Jan. 31 by SLED, there are 77 sexual assault kits in the tracking system. Forensic analysis has been completed on 11 of those kits and has been requested for an additional 26.

SLED said it cannot currently provide adequate data broken down by jurisdiction due to the implementation of the program by region, but it intends to include the additional statistics in future reports.

“In reviewing these statistics, it is important for the purposes of context that SLED has only recently begun enrolling users and collecting data,” SLED Chief Mark Keel wrote in a statement. “Accordingly, as end user enrollment continues to increase, data will become more representative of the state of the SAKs in South Carolina.”

The Sexual Assault Kit pilot program was supposed to be implemented by June 2022 in accordance with a bill signed by Gov. Henry McMaster signed in 2020, but SLED failed to make that deadline. The agency was heavily criticized for that decision.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), 42.3% of South Carolinian women & 29.2% of South Carolinian men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.

Per a SLED report, 28,324 intimate partner assaults happened in South Carolina in 2022.

“The system is particularly important for survivors because it will allow them to anonymously track the status of their kits, granting them more control in a process that otherwise leaves many feeling helpless,” said Sara Barber, executive director of the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

“With the statewide implementation of this system, we hope that there will be increased accountability around the status and whereabouts of the intimate evidence survivors have provided," said Barber.

The program is intended to provide victims more control over when and where their kits go and the process step-by-step, which previously, left victims in the dark.

“With the Track-Kit system in place, victims will now know when their kits are being analyzed," said Amanda Brown with the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network. "It gives them back that sense of power and allows them to understand what’s going on and understand where their kit is and where it is in the process."

"It also holds SLED accountable because it takes time for the kits to be processed," Brown added.

The Department of Justice estimates that a person in the United States is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds.

Marcus Flowers is an award-winning content producer who specializes in various topics.