The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) provides funding through a competitive grant program to support the jurisdictional reform of approaches to sexual assault cases resulting from evidence found in sexual assault kits (SAKs) that have never been submitted to a crime laboratory. SAKI is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and aims to create a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to sexual assault cases through (1) a comprehensive and victim-centered approach, (2) jurisdictional capacity building to prevent high numbers of unsubmitted SAKs in the future, and (3) supporting the investigation and prosecution of cases for which SAKs were previously unsubmitted. SAKI sites, both currently and previously funded, represent approximately 58% of the U.S. population (332.4 million).
SAKI is critical to enhancing the criminal justice response to sexual assault and ensuring justice for victims. SAKI funding will not only help link victims to advocates and needed services, but also help jurisdictions implement best practices and comprehensive reform to help bring perpetrators to justice and increase safety in communities by preventing future sexual assaults.
There is currently no reliable estimate for the number of sexual assault kits (SAKs) that have not been submitted to a crime laboratory; however, the reasons behind the backlog are complex. Unsubmitted SAKs can be attributed to many factors, including poor evidence tracking, outdated and ineffective investigation practices, lack of resources and personnel, misunderstanding of crime lab case acceptance policies, and lack of understanding among law enforcement personnel about the value of testing SAKs.1,2 Resolving these issues is critical to providing justice for victims and preventing such a backlog in the future.
The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) program, led by RTI International and in partnership with a team of subject matter experts, offers expertise and assistance to jurisdictions as they establish widespread, evidence-based, sustainable practices for:
In collaboration with ongoing efforts underway at the Office of Justice Programs and stakeholder organizations, the SAKI TTA team will assist in the development, implementation, and dissemination of best practices, policies, and protocols for addressing systematic issues that lead to large numbers of unsubmitted SAKs, and preventing those issues from reoccurring in the future.
The SAKI TTA team will efficiently disseminate publications and resources that address the lessons learned, common challenges, and best practices resulting from the experience of the SAKI grantees.
Multidisciplinary response: Effective practices, including creating and maintaining a sustainable sexual assault response team (SART) or multidisciplinary team (MDT).
Law enforcement: Identifying investigative steps to take after a CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) hit, prioritizing multiple CODIS hits, writing policy and procedure on investigative standards, collecting and handling evidence, and managing investigations.
Prosecution: Overcoming challenges associated with cold case prosecutions, training on witness preparation and questioning, and presenting sexual assault evidence at trial.
Sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE): Identifying needs, gaps, and challenges in local SANE programs and supporting the role of a SANE in sexual assault response reform.
Forensics and crime analysis: Offering valuable expertise associated with SAK testing strategies including forensic genealogy, crime analysis, and other advanced forensic DNA techniques.
Victim and family advocacy: Providing victim-centered and trauma-informed practices that improve how survivors and their families engage in the criminal justice system.
Case management: Offering expertise related to connecting crime laboratory information management systems to investigations and prosecutions.
Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)
BJA provides leadership and services in grant administration and criminal justice policy development. In consultation with the National Institute of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, and Office on Violence Against Women, BJA created SAKI to meet the diverse needs of jurisdictions contending with issues resulting from unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs).
BJA Project Staff
RTI is a private, nonprofit research organization headquartered in Research Triangle Park, NC. RTI has comprehensive knowledge of forensic case processing, law enforcement/forensic laboratory operations, and policy/program assessment. RTI serves as the SAKI TTA POC for SAKI sites, collaborates with SAKI TTA partners, manages and provides TTA, and disseminates best practices associated with sexual assault and violent crime response reform.
SAKI Training and Technical Assistance Team Partners
AEquitas' mission is to improve the quality of justice in sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and human trafficking cases. For the SAKI TTA, AEquitas provides assistance in developing policies and best practices, and facilitating training on the prosecution of sexual assault cases.
IACP provides training, model policies, and educational tools to support law enforcement officers, criminal justice, and community partners. For the SAKI TTA, IACP provides assistance in identifying and developing practices, procedures, and training to strengthen victim-centered approaches.
Michigan State University
Dr. Rebecca Campbell, Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University, is a nationally recognized practitioner trainer on sexual assault and the neurology of trauma. Dr. Campbell's SAKI TTA role is to provide assistance in developing strategies, testing plans, victim notification protocols, and training.
Wichita State University
Dr. Rachael Goodman-Williams, Assistant Professor of Community Psychology at Wichita State University (KS), provides significant expertise through her research focused on victim engagement, advocacy, healthcare, and well-being. Dr. Goodman-Williams assists SAKI sites through technical assistance, presenting at trainings, and collaborating with other SAKI stakeholders to further sexual assault response reform research.
Project: Cold Case
Project: Cold Case is a not-for-profit organization which seeks to spread awareness for unsolved homicides in the United States, while linking information, families, and law enforcement together. Project: Cold Case provides advocacy expertise through trainings, webinars, and direct grantee interaction on the SAKI TTA project.
Joyful Heart Foundation
The Joyful Heart Foundation's mission is to transform society's response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors' healing, and end this violence forever.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
RAINN is the nation's largest anti-sexual-assault organization and a national leader in online crisis intervention services. RAINN's SAKI TTA role is to provide assistance in developing victim-centered approaches for jurisdictions.
In early 2017, the BJA SAKI team partnered with ViCAP in an effort to increase use of the database and the sharing of crime intelligence information from SAKI-related cases across jurisdictions and the country. ViCAP staff are available to assist sites in gaining entry into the system; provide training on optimal use of the database; and conduct crime analysis on specific offenders/cases upon request. Additionally, ViCAP has a designated SAKI analyst to directly assist our sites. For more information about ViCAP, including the definition of "criteria cases," please refer to: Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP)
Strom, K. J., Roper-Miller, J., Jones, S., Sikes, N., Pope, M., & Horstmann, N. (2009, October). Survey of law enforcement forensic evidence processing 2007. Final Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
Harvard Kennedy School. (2014, October 31). Taking on the challenge of unsubmitted sexual assault kits [Webinar]. Retrieved from Government Innovators Network
Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative aims to create a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to sexual assault cases. Through this 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.