Improving the Justice System’s Response to Sexual Assault

The White House held a Summit on Women on June 14, 2016, where speakers discussed how the nation is moving forward to address issues affecting women and girls. At this Summit, NIJ launched its special report, Down the Road: Testing Evidence in Sexual Assaults, to help practitioners and advocates understand the larger context of improving the justice system’s response to sexual assault.

Solving sexual assault cases is much more complicated than simply testing forensic evidence. Police must investigate to develop other potential evidence in the case; prosecutors must file charges; juries (or judges) must render verdicts; and judges must sentence. And, every step along the way, the victims must be supported.

This new report details NIJ-funded research projects in Detroit and Houston to not only help these two jurisdictions, but to determine if their experiences could help others.

"Over the course of the four-year projects, the multidisciplinary teams were catalysts for change in these two very different American cities," the report states.

In Detroit, for example, the multidisciplinary team played a role in performing a census of more than 11,000 previously unsubmitted SAKs; testing nearly 1,600 kits; developing, implementing, and evaluating a protocol for notifying victims; and training police and other practitioners to understand the neurobiology of trauma.

In Houston, the team formed a special squad in the Houston PD to investigate when suspects were identified through testing of previously unsubmitted SAKs; developed a hotline for victims to obtain information about their cases; and streamlined hospital processes for how evidence is packaged in SAKs.

The report examines why there were so many previously unsubmitted SAKs at these two jurisdictions, the results from testing those SAK backlogs, and protocols developed for notification of victims.

You can read the full paper here.



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Item of Interest

The language barrier between English-speaking investigators and Spanish-speaking witnesses is a growing problem. (Updated 28 February 2011)