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EVAWI > Resources > Forensic Compliance > Untested Evidence

Forensic Compliance Resources

Note:  The information on this website is designed to:  (a) communicate the requirements of the Violence Against Women Act (as reauthorized in 2005 and 2013), and (b) offer recommended practices for implementation.  The goal is to highlight examples of communities striving to achieve a higher standard of the “spirit of the law,” rather than simply meeting the “letter of the law” for VAWA forensic compliance.  It is critically important that readers consult state laws and regulations, as well as local policies and protocols, because they may have additional requirements beyond those included in VAWA 2005 and VAWA 2013.  For more information specific to your state or territory, contact the STOP Grant Administrator or coalition of advocacy organizations providing services for sexual assault victims.  A listing is available from the website for the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. 
 
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.

Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Pilot Research Project

The Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Task Force was established in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, to investigate and potentially prosecute cases associated with approximately 5,000 previously unsubmitted SAKs. Research is now being conducted to understand more about these unsubmitted SAKs and explore how this can inform criminal justice responses across the country. Specifically, the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Pilot Research Project is being conducted by The Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University. Their work has already produced several extremely valuable research briefs, summarizing the findings and exploring critical “lessons learned” for the field:

The Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Action Research Project (ARP), Final Report

The Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Action Research Project (ARP) was created after it was discovered that a large volume of untested sexual assault kits were held in storage in Detroit. The ARP was created to to develop long-term strategies to decrease the volume of untested sexual assault kits in Detroit, Michigan. This multidisciplinary action research brought together researchers and practitioners from law enforcement, prosecution, forensic sciences, forensic nursing, and victim advocacy to address four primary goals. For more information on the findings, please see the full report entitled: Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Action Research Project (ARP), Final Report.

Webinar on Unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits

Starting in 2013, the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland, Ohio) Sexual Assault Kit Task Force began investigating and prosecuting cases from approximately 5,000 previously unsubmitted SAKs from 1993 to 2009. In the Fall of 2014, a research team was given access to the SAK case files, and they coded a random sample of 243 sexual assaults case files with completed investigations that either resulted in prosecution or were not pursued due to insufficient evidence. The webinar, Unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits: Changing What We Know About Rape, details key findings from this research study and discuss how these findings are being used to inform and reform how sexual assaults are investigated and prosecuted.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2013-TA-AX-K045 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.
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