Cover of the PDF version of Five Things Things About Sexual Assault Kits

 

This fact sheet from the National Insitute of Justice outlines what research has told us about sexual assault kits:

1. No one knows the number of kits nationwide that have not been submitted for testing.
2. Little is known about the age of unsubmitted kits.
3. Submitting a kit to a crime lab does not mean the lab will obtain usable DNA.
4. Even if the police have a suspect, testing a kit can be useful for a number of reasons.
5. The cost to test a sexual assault kit varies widely.

 


This report provides research results about Houston's victim notification process. In Houston, victim notification involves reestablishing contact with victims whose cases are reopened for investigation as a result of a match in the law enforcement database Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), from
victims’ recently tested sexual assault kits (SAKs).This action research assesses the implementation of the Complainant Notification and Hotline Protocols
by interviewing a small number of victims about their experience with notification by Houston Police Department investigators and the justice advocate, an advocate for victims.
 
The data analysis revealed multiple themes from victims’ notification experience, including:
  • Victims appreciated having more choice/control.
  • The time lapse had an important effect on their experience of moving on from the assault.
  • Several victims were trying to make meaning of their experience.
  • Deciding about whether to participate in their case going forward created a moral dilemma for some victims.
  • Victims faced many barriers in their current lives.
  • The notification process created both danger and opportunity for victims.
  • The uncertainty about the case outcome weighed heavily upon victims.

Additional reports from this research project can be found at: www.houstonsakresearch.org.

This report includes research on creating victim notification protocols.  Six major themes emerged from survey respondents regarding the process of developing and implementing the Protocols. They include: 1)Strategic planning, 2) Organizational support, 3) Active partnerships, 4) Resources, 5) Outreach, and 6)Victim-centered approach. Of the six themes, researchers identified the victim-centered approach as significant to the process of developing and implementing victim notification protocols.

Additional reports from this research project can be found at: www.houstonsakresearch.org.

This report describes research on victim and professional perspectives on the delivery of victim notification procedures, implementation of new victim notification processes, victim engagement within the criminal justice system, and recommendations for improvements.

Victims and professionals made five recommendations.

  • Law enforcement should not assume that a victim does or does not want to be notified.
  • All victims should be given the opportunity to be notified, and the decision for notification should be a choice provided to all victims instead of something imposed on them by someone else.
  • Mechanisms for notification should be flexible and thoughtful and incorporate choices for victims.
  • Victims should have a choice in whether their case moves forward based on DNA testing.
  • Resources and support are imperative to the notification process.

Additional reports from this research project can be found at: www.houstonsakresearch.org.

A new report describes findings about unsubmitted sexual assault kits in Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan. A multidisciplinary team investigated the situation and found a number of effective and sustainable responses and ways to prevent the problem from recurring.

The team found several underlying “risk factors” that contributed to the large quantity of unsubmitted SAKs in Detroit, including:

  1. Victim-blaming beliefs and behaviors by police.
  2. No written protocol for submitting kits to the lab for testing.
  3. Budget cuts that reduced the number of law enforcement and crime lab personnel.
  4. High turnover in police leadership.
  5. Lack of community-based victim advocacy services.

The final report gives a detailed look at their experience, including lessons learned from performing a census of SAKs, uncovering factors that contributed to the problem, testing of a sample of 1,600 kits, and developing victim-centered, trauma-informed notification protocols.

This Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) in Brief summarizes key points from "Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization — National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011." This report presents 2011 data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) on the ages of first victimization and on the public health burden of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence victimization, as well as the characteristics of victimization. Before implementation of NISVS in 2010, the most recent detailed national data on the public health burden from these forms of violence were obtained from the National Violence against Women Survey conducted during 1995–1996.

Increasingly, preventionists are working to prevent sexual violence at community- and societal-levels. Influencing public policies falls within these realms. This resource provides an overview of the key findings from Exploring alcohol policy approaches to prevent sexual violence perpetration, by Caroline Lippy and Sarah DeGue (2014). Potential prevention strategies are discussed, including policy advocacy to influence the availability and marketing of alcohol and the environment surrounding its consumption; anti-oppression, social justice prevention approaches; and collaborations across disciplines, research, and practice.

NSVRC STATEMENT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In response to WaPo Fact Checker: One rape is too many

HARRISBURG, PA –  Sexual violence is complex and hard to talk about, but the fact is that sexual violence is an issue of epidemic proportions that impacts all of society. The February 12 column by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post questions the accuracy of statistics about sexual assault, second-guesses research design and respondent ability to understand plainly worded questions, and ultimately infers that drug- or alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults are not legitimate.

Sexual violence occurs when a person chooses to exploit a vulnerability they see in another person—and this criminal behavior can take place whether or not alcohol or drugs are involved.

In fact, offenders use drugs and alcohol strategically when it comes to sexual assault: they know that someone who is severely intoxicated is often unable to stay conscious, have control of their bodies or surroundings and are likely to have gaps in memory; perpetrators use drugs or alcohol to lower their own inhibitions; and they rely on public opinion to not take reports of sexual assault seriously if the victim and/or offender were intoxicated. The offenders count on “us” to excuse their actions.

This offender strategy happens both on and off college campuses, and calling this common reality into question, or questioning statistics that have been consistently in the same range for two decades, distracts from efforts to prevent and respond to the very real and all-too-pervasive problem of sexual violence.

One rape is too many. The experience of sexual assault can be devastating, often derailing the pursuit of education, disrupting relationships, destroying a survivor’s sense of safety in the world and creating doubts about self-worth and a survivor’s ability to determine whom they can and cannot trust. Sexual assault damages campus communities and our society as a whole.

Statistics represent the stories of the countless survivors of sexual violence, many of whom were afraid to tell their friends, go to the police or confide in their families; their fears are largely rooted in the knowledge that their stories and actions—and thus their pain—are likely to be doubted by a culture that needs to do much better in listening to survivors. We appreciate the President of the United States publicly prioritizing sexual assault prevention and urging others to do the same.

The NSVRC knows that traumatizing acts of sexual violence are widespread and affect all genders, races, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. The NSVRC is committed to sexual violence prevention, providing research-based resources and fostering collaboration at the local, state and national-level. For positive change to occur, it is imperative that we develop a full and accurate understanding of the sexual violence epidemic, both on and off college campuses. We remain steadfastly committed to improving the quality of public health services and support to victims and their families, and to supporting communities in encouraging victims to seek help and report these crimes.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), founded by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) in 2000, creates and disseminates resources to assist advocates, allies, and journalists working across the globe to address and prevent all forms of sexual violence.

For more information, visit www.nsvrc.org. For help and services across the U.S., access NSVRC’s online directory at http://tinyurl.com/USdirectory.

Cover thumbnail of 3 critical points for rolling stone article

The Bureau of Justice Statistics special report Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013 released in December, 2014 uses the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to compare the rape and sexual assault victimization from 1995 to 2013 of female college students (enrolled in a college, university, trade school or vocational school) and female nonstudents. Read our highlights.

This publication is designed to promote consistency in the use of terminology and data collection across organizations that work to prevent sexual violence. The updated document provides more detail on the various definitions of “sexual violence” and by addressing how technology is used to perpetrate unwanted sexual experiences. Learn more and download.

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