RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC— The U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance has selected RTI International as the Training and Technical Assistance provider for the 2015 National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI).
Through a $41 million competitive grant program, the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative supports the reform of jurisdictions' approaches to sexual assault cases resulting from evidence found in sexual assault kits that have never been submitted to a crime lab.
"Unsubmitted sexual assault kit evidence represents an ongoing and significant problem in the United States and substantially undermines the legitimacy of our justice system including the willingness of victims to report to the police," said Kevin J. Strom, Ph.D., senior criminologist at RTI. "The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative will help create a coordinated multidisciplinary response that builds jurisdictions' capacity to process sexual assault kits and utilize the evidence from these cases."
Under this three-year award, RTI and partner organizations will form the SAKI Training and Technical Assistance Program to assist jurisdictions across the country with establishing sustainable change in practices, protocols and policies related to unsubmitted sexual assault kits resulting in an improved holistic national response to sexual assault. The partners, led by RTI, also are tasked with identifying best practices and serving as a central source for evidence-based practices that other jurisdictions can employ in their sexual assault response initiatives.
According to researchers, several factors have been attributed to unsubmitted sexual assault kits including limited understanding of the value of forensic evidence, lack of polices for evidence submission and analysis, and weak inter-organizational collaborations for victim-centered post-assault services.
"A coordinated multidisciplinary response is key towards improving the nation's response to sexual assault," Strom said. "The good news is that there are jurisdictions that have implemented strategies to achieve successful outcomes. Our goal is to replicate these evidence-based practices across the United States."
For example, the Houston Police department implemented a program to analyze 6,600 previously untested sexual assault kits and discovered 850 cold hits, and made 29 prosecutions and six convictions. In Cleveland, Ohio, the analysis of untested sexual assault kits has connected more than 200 alleged serial rapists to 600 sexual assaults.
Partnering organizations include the International Associated of Chiefs of Police, AEquitas, the SANE-SART Research Service, Kinetic Learning, the Joyful Heart Foundation, and RAINN, as well as Rebecca Campbell, Ph.D., from Michigan State University.