by Katherine Houghton, Daily Inter Lake, 7-10-17

More than 1,000 kits holding possible evidence of sexual assault in Montana were never tested. State officials are working to see whether those untested kits hold answers as to how Montana should respond to future assault cases.

There’s a reported sexual assault every 23 hours in Montana, according to the state Board of Crime Control. Sexual assault or rape kits are evidence gathered from survivors of an assault to potentially be used to identify and prosecute their attackers.

In Montana, 1,140 evidence kits were never sent to the state’s crime lab. State authorities said many of the untested kits are from cases over the last 10 to 12 years — several date back to the 1990s.

Sometimes those kits weren’t tested because survivors didn’t want to press charges. In other cases, there wasn’t enough evidence. Those decisions often fell to local entities processing the case, such as sheriff offices and city police departments. 

This month, those evidence kits were federally certified, according to the Montana Department of Justice. As a result, the kits will be sent in phases to Sorenson Labs in Salt Lake City for testing starting this month.