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EVAWI > Resources > Best Practices > Victim Notification
 
Untested Evidence and Cold Case Investigation

This training module is designed to help communities address the complex challenges of untested evidence in sexual assault cases. While the material is largely written with reference to cold cases, much of the guidance applies equally to current sexual assault cases and investigations that have been recently inactivated or suspended. Specific guidance is offered for notifying victims that their investigation has been re-opened, keeping victims informed of the status of their case, and providing ongoing victim support throughout the criminal justice process.

Key Questions to Guide Victim Notification Protocols

This guidance from the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) and RTI International is designed to help communities grapple with the questions of whether, when, why, and how to notify victims about testing evidence in their sexual assault case. Specifically, the guidance provides information on the two types of victim notification: active outreach notification and opt-in notification.

Complainant Notification and Information Line Protocols

These protocols were created as a result of the Sexual Assault Kit Action-Research Task Force in Houston, Texas. They establish the groundwork for how cold case investigation will proceed after analysis of the sexual assault kit (SAK) is complete, including investigative and victim notification procedures.

Notifying Sexual Assault Victims After Testing Evidence

This publication from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) offers lessons learned and basic recommendations for victim notification.

Final Report on the Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Project

This report provides a wealth of valuable information on untested evidence and cold case investigation. Particularly relevant are the following sections: The Step-By-Step Process of Creating the Detroit Victim Notification Protocol; Challenges and Solutions Encountered in the Implementation of the Detroit SAK ARP Victim Notification Protocol; Lessons Learned: Conducting Victim Notifications; Victim Notification Retreat Planning Guide.

Survivor Notification: Recommendations for Oregon

The Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force (SATF) convened a Victim Notification Work Group to develop recommendations for how Oregon will approach survivor notification after processing untested Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) Kits. This excellent resource provides a definitions of terms for practitioners, detailed information on who, when, and how a survivor should be contacted, sample language practitioners can use when notifying survivors, and a sample letter to use when phone or in-person contacts have not been successful.

Neurobiology of Trauma Webinar Series

The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative has a webinar series available on the neurobiology of trauma with Dr. Rebecca Campbell.

In Part I, Dr. Campbell describes how the brain and body react to major traumas, including sexual assault. This module emphasizes the importance of understanding victim behavior during an assault and the immediate aftermath.

In Part II, participants continue to learn how the body and the brain react to major traumas, with an emphasis on understanding memory formation and recall during an assault and in the immediate aftermath.

In Part III, Dr. Campbell continues the discussion on the neurobiology of trauma with an emphasis on understanding implications for cold case investigations and victim notifications.

Developing a Victim Notification Plan

For detailed guidance on how to develop a victim notification protocol, a number of tools are available. First, some basic recommendations provided by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in: Notifying Sexual Assault Victims After Testing Evidence.

Concrete suggestions can also be found in the Final Report on the Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Project. Particularly relevant are the following sections:

     The Step-By-Step Process of Creating the Detroit Victim Notification Protocol (Figure 5.1, 236-244)

     Challenges & Solutions Encountered in the Implementation of the Detroit SAK ARP Victim Notification Protocol (Figure 5-3, p. 251-255). 

     Lessons Learned: Conducting Victim Notifications (p. 320-323)

     Victim Notification Retreat Planning Guide (Appendix C1, p. 450-473)

Lessons Learned Webinar

Many tools are available for notifying victims when the evidence in a cold sexual assault case will be tested or picked up for renewed investigation. This includes a free webinar series offered by the University of Texas School of Social Work. The webinars present information based on “lessons learned” from the Houston Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Project.

Joyful Heart Foundation Report

Also available is a report by the Joyful Heart Foundation, entitled Navigating Notification: A Guide to Re-Engaging Sexual Assault Survivors Affected by the Untested Rape Kit Backlog. This report summarizes findings from interviews with 19 sexual assault survivors and 79 professionals from a variety of involved disciplines. 

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