(COLORADO) — Knowledge can be power for survivors of sexual assault, and now Colorado has taken what state officials are calling a significant step toward ensuring justice for victims.

A new bill enacted on Thursday, May 25, established a statewide Rape Kit Tracking System to keep those handling and processing rape test kits accountable while granting survivors access to information they deserve, according to officials.

“Many survivors leave the hospital and never hear again anything about their rape kit… it’s very harmful to their healing process because they have a lot of questions,” stated Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy for Joyful Heart Foundation. “‘Did I do something wrong so they didn’t test the evidence? Was I not believed?’ When there’s a tracking system… they can see where it is at all times.”

In many cases, victims are reluctant to report sexual assault, especially if there are any barriers along the way, said Colorado State Rep. Meg Froelich. To give survivors peace of mind and empowerment, the new system will make sure kits do not get lost during the investigative process.

“One person would be making the decision about whether or not a rape kit gets tested and that person… could be untrained in how important DNA databases are and how crimes can get linked together.”

The rape test kits will be kept until the Statute of Limitations and an additional ten years before officials are given permission by the victim to destroy evidence.

“Victims may feel like they need some time to decide how they would like to interact with the criminal justice system. If they would like to get an extension and have it held on to for another five years, ten years– that’s also within their rights,” said Rep. Froelich.

There’s even a chance a rape test kit can help solve cold cases and find serial perpetrators years after being sent to a crime lab.

“DNA profile from the rape kit goes into the database, it could match to an offender that’s already on the database… a rape kit could match to another rape kit… [or] a homicide or a burglary scene,” said Knecht.

HB21-1143 was passed in partnership with the Joyful Heart Foundation, founded by Mariska Hargitay, who is known for her role as Detective Olivia Benson in the true crime tv show, Law and Order Special Victims Unit.

Since launching a national campaign to pass six pillars of rape test kit reform, 17 states including Washington D.C., have achieved full reform– Colorado now being one of them.

“It’s important to remember that every single one of these rape kits that is collected is representing a survivor who has gone through one of the most terrible experiences of their lives, and they deserve to have information about that kit,” said Knecht.