She’s been waiting 15 months for her rape kit to be processed. A new proposal to track evidence aims to change that.

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Sarah Parsons is ready to move forward, to endure a criminal case against the man she said sexually assaulted her, to begin closing a difficult chapter.

But she is waiting on one thing. The evidence collected last year in the emergency room of a Chicago hospital, known as a rape kit, hasn’t yet been analyzed. An attorney advised waiting; the results would likely bolster the case.

Her advocate with Resilience, a group that offers survivor support, told her to expect 10 months to process the rape kit, said 20-year-old Parsons, who lives in the South Loop.

“Ten months goes by, 12 months,” she said. Nearly 15 months later, “I’m still waiting for it.”

Arlene Hall, commander of Illinois State Police’s Forensic Sciences Command, hopes to quicken the pace of processing, ideally to within six months. She said labs are always evaluating how to improve, including the use of robotics to automate more processing. As of June, ISP had 63 forensic scientists working on DNA testing, below the 81 needed to address new cases and reduce the backlog, according to ISP’s annual report. Hall said ISP plans to hire five more forensic scientists in December.

“Our goal is to get the results to the agencies as timely as possible, so they can use those results and investigate,” she said. “It doesn’t do anybody any good if they’re waiting a year or longer.”

And after such a long wait, some survivors might be less willing or able to assist with prosecutions — memories are less crisp, and people might want to simply move on. Meanwhile, while evidence waits to be processed, criminals could remain on the street.

For Parsons, who is studying forensic psychology at Roosevelt University with an eye toward an eventual doctorate, waiting for information has exacerbated an already painful situation. A tracking system would at least provide her information, she said, even if that information was frustrating. “Because they do take so long, it’d be nice to have some kind of knowledge.”

Still, she never wants to use a tracking system. By the time one is established, she hopes her case will be closed.

abowen@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @byalisonbowen

She went to the ER for a rape exam. Her nurse didn’t know how to do one. »

Rauner signs law requiring Illinois hospitals have nurses trained to treat rape victims »

State police analyze backlog of 4,000 rape kits »

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November 14, 2018 at 06:33AM

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