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Kits designed to keep violence victims' identities confidential

The identity of a rapist could be stored away in a box and revealed when a rape victim is ready -- which may be never.

However, law enforcement would rather have the information available even if details of the "Jane Doe" rape kit need to be worked out.

The North Dakota Forensic Medical Examination Multidisciplinary Working Group recently got together attempting to find ways to make it easier for women to report violence.

Members hope "Jane Doe" rape kits do just that. Group member Lt. Rod Banyai said the kits make it possible for a rape victim to seek medical attention and gather possible forensic evidence without revealing their identity.

"DNA evidence is your number one form of evidence," Banyai said.

Banyai said many women are hesitant to complete rape kits, and the thought behind a "Jane Doe" is more will be willing to because of the anonymity. Rape kits must be done within 96 hours after a rape for evidence to be usable.

"As every hour goes by, the evidence is deteriorating," Banyai said.

The kit is given a number and stored until the individual decides to report the rape. This causes storage problems for law enforcement.

Banyai said for the kits to be entered into many law enforcement departments' evidence archives -- including Dickinson -- a name and a date of birth are mandatory.

Another snag is only the victims know the identification code on the kit. If it's misplaced, all evidence is lost.

Banyai said the committee is also working on making sure the kits will hold up in court.

"We want to make sure they pass the legal system requirements," Banyai said.

Detective Amanda McNamee said while standard rape kits have been entered into evidence, a "Jane Doe" never has. She and Banyai are unsure what they would do with a kit if entered.

There are a lot of questions and issues regarding the kits, but committee members are looking at these difficulties and discussing how to get around them.

"I would like to see a system that would make it as uncomplicated as possible, to make the victim feel like they're being taken care of," Banyai said. "The other half of that is to have the best procedure in place so that we can locate the individual, prosecute and convict the person that committed the rape."