DULUTH, MN-- A new public safety law is changing how law enforcement will handle and store sexual assault kits throughout Minnesota.
Before the law, sexual assault kits were put in two categories unrestricted and restricted.
Unrestricted kits are where a victim has chosen to file a police report, and restricted is where a victim isn't sure what they want to do yet.
Restricted kits did not have much statewide guidance, it was left to individual law enforcement agencies to decide procedures.
"Throughout the state of Minnesota there was kind of a patchwork of different systems of how restricted kits were handled," said Mary Faulkner, a SAKI Site Coordinator with PAVSA.
This new law establishes procedures for all kits regardless of which category or where in the state it occurred.
Local sexual assault organizations like PAVSA say this law is a long time coming.
Faulkner said, "Whether you live in Duluth or Southern St. Louis County versus a survivor who lives in another part of the state that they'll have the same kind of options and their evidence will be handled in the same accountable way."
The Duluth Police Department said under the new law they'll continue to work with stakeholders to bring justice to victims and survivors of sexual assault.
"The Duluth Police Department’s close partnership with PAVSA and the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office is essential to our victim-centered approach when investigating sexual assault cases. Under the new law, we’ll continue to work diligently, as we always have, to bring justice to those affected by sexual assault so victim-survivors can feel safe and empowered as they heal from the trauma caused by crimes of this nature."
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is also creating a tracking website where victims keep see where their kit is.
"When someone goes in for a sexual assault exam, it could be up to six to seven hours of their life they spend having that evidence collected," said Faulkner. "So, they have a right to know where it is at any given time and have control over their next steps."
The Minnesota BCA, law enforcement, and hospitals are all working together on how to best implement the procedural changes.
District 3B House Representative Mary Murphy representing Hermantown sponsored the bill.
We did reach out to Murphy for comment but did not hear back by publication.