Communities across the country are embarking on efforts to process untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) and pursue justice in the cases to which those kits are tied. Funding through grant-making offices within the Department of Justice, including the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), supports this critical work in many jurisdictions. As professionals inside and outside the justice system work together to take inventory of SAKs, test the evidence they contain, follow investigative leads in the associated cases, and reach out to victims, they need to attempt to balance public safety and victim safety every step of the way.
But striking that balance is not always clear cut. For example, if “test all kits” policies—intended to hold perpetrators accountable and restore public trust in the justice system—do not account for the fact that not all victims who obtain medical forensic exams have agreed to have the SAK tested, then that can create barriers to obtaining medical forensic care and reporting sexual assault, ultimately undermining the very goals those policies are intended to achieve. For that reason, OVW has issued a white paper on SAK testing initiatives and non-investigative kits, meaning SAKs that were collected from sexual assault victims who obtained medical forensic exams but have not chosen to report a crime to law enforcement or otherwise agreed to the kit being tested.
OVW’s position, which is discussed in the white paper, is that submitting non-investigative SAKs to a forensic laboratory for testing, absent consent from the victim, should not be standard operating procedure for a law enforcement agency. In addition to outlining this position, the white paper briefly describes alternative reporting options and offers links to resources that can help communities shape their approaches to dealing with untested SAKs.
OVW recognizes the unique opportunities and challenges that arise when taking a fresh look at sexual assault cases that were first reported years and even decades ago. I hope that this white paper will be helpful to you and your colleagues as you address untested SAKs in your community while ensuring that sexual assault victims have options and access to services.
Download a copy of Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiatives and Non-investigative Kits.