Free online toolkit can help address rape kit backlog
The SAKI Toolkit helps law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, criminal justice professionals and others address rape kit backlog
By Andrea Fox, P1 Contributor
A free, government-funded sharing platform has been created to help law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates and criminal justice professionals work together to reduce rape kit backlog and close out cases.
The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Online Toolkit is a customizable briefcase and sharing platform developed by policing research and forensic science experts.
According to End the Backlog, more than 225,000 untested rape kits have been uncovered. In September 2016, The Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) awarded a total $38 million under the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) to address the backlog. The funding was awarded to state, tribal and local government agencies for processing sexual assault kits in law enforcement custody that had not been submitted to forensic laboratories.
About $5 million of the grant was awarded to RTI International at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, to provide technical assistance and create practitioner resources for the SAKI website and SAKI Virtual Academy. The SAKI Online Toolkit for community responders was announced on the final day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
According to the announcement, sexual assault kits that may contain evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions must be submitted to crime laboratories to begin the process of seeking justice for victims of sexual assault. A significant number of unsubmitted sexual assault kits remain in law enforcement property rooms across the U.S., leaving victims in fear and hindering efforts to take violent offenders off the streets.
Now, the significant task of identifying and processing these thousands of kits and investigating and prosecuting these cases, while promoting survivor healing, has become less daunting for law enforcement professionals, agencies and communities.
The SAKI Online Toolkit offers free, easily downloadable tools supply much needed resources to the nation’s law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to help investigators, prosecutors and victim advocates close out cases and bring answers to survivors.
The tools were developed by policing research and forensic science experts at RTI International, a leading non-profit research institute, and a team of multidisciplinary consultants with experience in sexual assault investigations and funded by BJA.
“RTI is proud to assist law enforcement professionals in the submission and processing of unsubmitted sexual assault kits in crime laboratories and law enforcement agencies throughout the United States,” said Kevin Strom, director of RTI’s Policing Research Program. “These online tools and trainings will help reduce the large backlog of untested sexual assault kits and potentially enable closure for victims.”
The BJA National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) aims to create a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to sexual assault cases. Through the SAKI program, funding is provided to support multidisciplinary community response teams engaged in the comprehensive reform of jurisdictions’ approaches to sexual assault cases resulting from evidence found in previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits. Whether or not a jurisdiction is funded by SAKI, the Online Toolkit and Virtual Academy aim to meet the large need for more sexual assault training across the country.
The SAKI Toolkit can be downloaded as “pre-packaged briefcases” or be customized for the needs of:
- Law enforcement
- Victim advocates
- Criminal justice professionals
- Trauma-informed service providers.
Pre-packaged resource sets are available according the role that the users may play on a sexual assault response team. Examples include briefcases for multidisciplinary team leaders, sexual assault investigators and sexual assault prosecutors.
Training Needed to Reduce Rape Kit Backlog
The SAKI Virtual Academy is the home of online training and resources to help law enforcement and communities improve their jurisdiction’s capacity to investigate, prosecute, inventory and track SAKs, and provide trauma-informed victim services and advocacy.
Web-based courses include:
- Developing a SAK Testing Plan
- Working the Case 1: Case Assessment and Review
- Developing a Victim Notification Protocol.
Additional courses are planned and coming soon on Case Follow Up and Prosecuting Cold Case Sexual Assaults.