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Sexual Assault Kit Processing Time Cut In Half Since Backlog Cleared

Photo of an evidence bag.
Renee Bright
Utah cleared its sexual assault kit backlog in September 2020 after a years-long effort.

The average processing time for sexual assault kits in Utah has been cut in half since the backlog was cleared seven months ago.

Sexual assault kits contain swabs from a survivor that are tested for DNA at the state’s crime lab. In early September, it took about 90 days on average for a new kit to be fully processed.

Now, it’s 41 days, according to state crime lab director Amy Lightfoot.

“It's exciting to be in a place where we're able to process kits as they come in the door instead of taking in evidence and then having it wait,” Lightfoot said. “So it's a huge, huge benefit and a big relief.

The lab has also started using robotics and changed its workflow to help speed up the process.

Lightfoot said she expects that average processing time to get down to their goal of 30 days by the end of April.

Faster turnaround times can have big impacts on survivors, said Katherine Aguilera, Director of Advocacy Services at the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City.

“This gives us a starting point — a bottom line — that we can refer back to,” she said. “We can create some reassurance, like, ‘Yes, this is part of the process. This is normal to be waiting this long’ as opposed to ‘Oh, I can't say ... depends … there's a backlog.’”

Aguilera said evidence processing is just one part of the legal process, and the rest of it can be much more unpredictable and lengthy.

“We approach that by redirecting to healing and saying, ‘Regardless of how long this may take, what can we do to support you in this moment?’” she said. “‘What are the tools that we can [use to] help facilitate and grow with you no matter how far it goes in the system?’”

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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