Sexual assault kit testing programs to be expanded

RTI International and partner organizations form SAKI Training and Technical Assistance Program to assist jurisdictions nationwide

Police lights flashing at night

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC— To help communities reduce the national backlog of untested sexual assault kits, RTI International will provide training and technical assistance to an increasing number of state and local agencies as they identify and test sexual assault kits, investigate and prosecute resulting cases, and support survivors of sexual assault.

The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), launched in fall 2015 by the U.S. Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance, has helped jurisdictions nationwide improve their approaches to sexual assault cases, and subsequently, charge and prosecute offenders.

As of September 2016, 20 jurisdictions funded in 2015 by SAKI have inventoried more than 27,500 sexual assault kits. The jurisdictions are sending kits for testing, conducting case reviews, and carrying out investigations and prosecutions. This week the Bureau of Justice Assistance funded 12 additional jurisdictions under the initiative.

“While progress has been made to address unsubmitted sexual assault kits, we are continuing to improve the criminal justice response to sexual assault to ensure justice for victims,” said Kevin J. Strom, Ph.D., senior criminologist at RTI. “The SAKI project represents a critical step towards reducing the number of untested sexual assault kits and, hopefully, is part of a long-term solution for preventing these problems from occurring in the future.”

Under this initiative, RTI and partner organizations lead 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. The program has been working with jurisdictions to develop individualized training and technical assistance plans that address challenge areas such as victim notification, evidence tracking, multidisciplinary team coordination, capacity planning, and trauma-informed victim engagement.  

Through an additional $5 million award to RTI, researchers will continue to support SAKI by assisting the reform of jurisdictions' approaches to sexual assault cases.

A webinar series, hosted by the program, is available to provide guidance on key sexual assault kit-related issues, such as evidence tracking and investigating cold sexual assault cases. To view the webinars, click here.

The program website serves as the hub for information about the initiative as well as training and technical assistance resources. Visit the SAKI website or follow @SAKInitiative on Twitter or Facebook for regular updates on the project and practices relevant to law enforcement, prosecutors and victim advocates.