The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) team supports SAKI sites in their efforts to track impactful metrics for sexual assault response reform and disseminate findings from research initiatives related to the testing of previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs). Offenders are being held accountable and victims are finding justice through the investigation and prosecution of these cases.
SAKI encourages jurisdictions to engage in research related to sexual assault response reform; additionally, SAKI supports the development of evidence-informed, victim-centered policies and practices. This section highlights research conducted in relevant topic areas of sexual assault response reform.
When implementing sexual assault response reform, it is important to understand the scope of previously unsubmitted SAKs both nationally and within a jurisdiction. The following articles explore the scope of unsubmitted SAKs as well as causes and considerations for moving forward and addressing the unanalyzed evidence.
Luminais, M., Lovell, R., & Flannery, D. (2017b). Perceptions on Why the Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Exists in Cuyahoga County, Ohio and Recommendations for Improving Practice. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education. Retrieved from http://begun.case.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/backlog-brief_8_14_17_Final.pdf
This brief presents findings from a process evaluation conducted in collaboration with the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force; the process evaluation focused on the task force members' perceptions about the reasons for the sexual assault kit backlog. Through these perceptions, researchers observed shifts in culture and practice that have occurred due to passage of time, societal changes, and participation in the task force.
Pinchevsky, G. M. (2016). Criminal Justice Considerations for Unsubmitted and Untested Sexual Assault Kits: A Review of the Literature and Suggestions for Moving Forward. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 0887403416662899. https://doi.org/10.1177/0887403416662899
This article reviews research related to changes in processing SAKs, evaluates approaches agencies have taken to address both unsubmitted and untested SAKs, and discusses needs for future research to improve the response to sexual assault.
Campbell, R., Feeney, H., Fehler-Cabral, G., Shaw, J., & Horsford, S. (2017). The National Problem of Untested Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs): Scope, Causes, and Future Directions for Research, Policy, and Practice. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 18(4), 363-376. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838015622436
Campbell, R., Shaw, J., & Fehler-Cabral, G. (2015). Shelving Justice: The Discovery of Thousands of Untested Rape Kits in Detroit: SHELVING JUSTICE. City & Community, 14(2), 151-166. href="https://doi.org/10.1111/cico.12108
Ritter, N. (2011). The road ahead: Unanalyzed evidence in sexual assault cases. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/233279.pdf
Ritter, N. (2016). Down the road: Unanalyzed evidence in sexual assault cases. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/249805.pdf
Strom, K.J. & Hickman, M.J. (2016). Untested Sexual Assault Kits: Searching for an Empirical Foundation to Guide Forensic Case Processing Decisions. Criminology and Public Policy, 15(2): 593-601). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1745-9133.12213
Strom, K. J., & Hickman, M. J. (2010). Unanalyzed evidence in law-enforcement agencies. Criminology & Public Policy, 9(2), 381-404. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-9133.2010.00635.x
Strom, K. J., Ropero-Miller, J., Jones, S., Sikes, N., Pope, M., & Horstmann, N. (2007). The 2007 Survey of Law Enforcement Forensic Evidence Processing. Final Report, 83. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/228415.pdf
When creating a coordinated community response to sexual assault reform, jurisdictions must understand the community of victims represented by the unsubmitted SAKs and how sexual assaults have previously beenand are currently beingreported.
This report analyzed the paperwork completed by the medical professional conducting the sexual assault examination for a sample of 413 previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs). The analysis demonstrates that DNA profiles come from varied cases and circumstances; therefore, submitting all SAKs for forensic analysis is critical.
Butcher, F., Lovell, R., & Flannery, D. (2016). Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Pilot Project: Report on Victims. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education. Retrieved from http://begun.case.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Victim-Brief.pdf
Lisak, D., Gardinier, L., Nicksa, S. C., & Cote, A. M. (2010). False allegations of sexual assault: An analysis of ten years of reported cases. Violence Against Women, 16(12), 1318-1334. https://images.template.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/02115256/False-Allegations-of-Sexual-Assualt.pdf
Lonsway, K., Archambault, J., & Lisak, D. (2009). False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault (The Voice). The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA201368099&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=00276383&p=AONE&sw=w
National efforts, such as SAKI, have been instrumental in providing the resources and support jurisdictions need to test previously unsubmitted SAKs, conduct effective investigations, prosecute these cases, and support survivors to fully implement sexual assault response reform. Explore the following articles and resources to learn about SAKI's impact and other efforts to address unsubmitted SAKs.
Research in SAKIThe Cuyahoga County Experience (SAKI TTA Webinar)
This webinar discussed key findings from the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force's pilot study of 243 sexual assault cases. This webinar detailed key findings from this research and discussed how these findings are being used to inform and reform the ways in which sexual assaults are investigated and prosecuted. The webinar was organized around recommended short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals for research in the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
Lovell, R., & Flannery, D. (2017). Describing and Quantifying How Previously Unsubmitted SAKs Advance from Testing to Disposition on the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education. Retrieved from http://begun.case.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Begun_SAKI_Decision-Tree_Final.pdf
This research brief describes the Cuyahoga County SAK Task Force's processing of previously unsubmitted SAKs from testing through dispositionincluding key process steps, statistics on the number of cases that proceed or fail to proceed, and reasons why cases fail to proceed.
Lovell, R., Luminais, M., Flannery, D. J., Bell, R., & Kyker, B. (2018). Describing the process and quantifying the outcomes of the Cuyahoga County sexual assault kit initiative. Journal of Criminal Justice, 57, 106-115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2018.05.012
This research article reviews the process that previously unsubmitted SAKs undergo, from testing through disposition. Researchers found that almost 40% of these SAKs resulted in a DNA hit with a quarter of all tested SAKs leading to an indictment.
Shaw, J., Campbell, R., Hagstrom, J., O'Reilly, L., Kreiger, G., Cain, D., & Nye, J. (2016). Bringing Research Into Practice: An evaluation of Michigan's Sexual Assault Kit. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 31(8), 1476-1500. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.919.8470&rep=rep1&type=pdf
This article describes a successful researcher-practitioner partnership that used evaluation data to successfully guide policy decisions for the development and implementation of a new sexual assault kit in Michigan. The article highlights ways in which researchers and practitioners can work together as well as lessons learned for future partnerships.
Campbell, R., Fehler-Cabral, G., Pierce, S. J., Sharma, D. B., Bybee, D., Shaw, J., Horsford, S., and Feeney, H. (2015). The Detroit sexual assault kit (SAK) action research project (ARP), final report. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/248680.pdf
Fallik, S., & Wells, W. (2015). Testing Previously Unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits: What Are the Investigative Results? Criminal Justice Policy Review, 26(6), 598-619. https://doi.org/10.1177/0887403414528001
Nelson, M. S. (2013). Analysis of untested sexual assault kits in New Orleans (NIJ Journal No. NCJ 241926). National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/242312.pdf
Wells, W., Campbell, B., & Franklin, C. (2016). Unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits in Houston, TX: Case Characteristics, Forensic Testing Results, and the Investigation of CODIS Hits (No. NCJRS 249813). National Institute of Justice. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/249813.pdf
Jurisdictions have taken different approaches to submitting SAKs for testing. Some have implemented the "forklift" method by submitting all SAKs for testing, while others have prioritized SAKs for testing based on various factorsincluding the statute of limitations and victim-offender relationship. Explore the following resources to learn more about SAK testing and processing methods, policies, and procedures implemented by jurisdictions.
Kansas SAKI Research Testing Priorities (SAKI TTA Webinar)
Kansas has identified an inventory of more than 2,200 previously unsubmitted SAKs; a cross-sectional sample of these unsubmitted SAKs was evaluated prior to this webinar. During the webinar, the presenter focused on the findings related to creating a testing prioritization model. She discussed the resources that the Kansas SAKI Team developed for local jurisdictions to notify victims and review cases that resulted in Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) hits.
Kansas SAKI Working Group. (2018). Law Enforcement Survey Analysis of the Cross-Sectional Sample (Executive Summary 5). Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation conducted a survey with 12 law enforcement agencies to better understand why SAKs were originally not submitted for testing. This executive summary reviews the 19 common factors law enforcement cited in the survey that contributed to the SAK not being submitted previously.
Kansas SAKI Working Group. (2017). Defining the Cross-Sectional Sample and Data Collection (Executive Summary 2). Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
This executive summary defines the cross-sectional sample used by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for their 12-agency pilot study; additionally, this summary discusses how data collected during the pilot project will be used to gain a better understanding of the process flow from exam to crime laboratory submission and to make recommendations to prevent a future accumulation.
Kansas SAKI Working Group. (2017). Evaluating Suspect Criminal History Demographics to Prioritize Testing (No. Executive Summary 3). Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
As part of a 12-agency pilot project, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation collected data on 496 SAKs and found that 51% of these cases had assailants known to the victim. Personally identifiable information was used to gather criminal history on the known suspects. This executive summary analyses sexual offenses and other violent offenses associated with these known offenders.
Kansas SAKI Working Group. (2017). Forensic Analysis of Cross Sectional Sample and Recommended Testing Prioritization (Executive Summary 4).
This executive summary by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation highlights testing results from their pilot studyincluding the number of profiles uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the number of CODIS hits, and the criminal history of suspects with a CODIS hit. Also discussed are the recommendations for addressing a statewide inventory based on the findings from the analysis and prioritization of the sample cases.
Kansas SAKI Working Group. (2018). Future Sexual Assault Kit Submission and Testing (Executive Summary 7). Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
This executive summary highlights how the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) evaluated current resources and best practices to make recommendations for future SAK submissions. KBI recommends that all SAKs be submitted to a crime laboratory for testing and encourages communication between stakeholders to facilitate SAK processing.
Campbell, R., & Fehler-Cabral, G. (2018). Why Police "Couldn't or Wouldn't" Submit Sexual Assault Kits for Forensic DNA Testing: A Focal Concerns Theory Analysis of Untested Rape Kits. Law & Society Review, 52(1), 73-105. https://doi.org/10.1111/lasr.12310
Campbell, R., Fehler-Cabral, G., Bybee, D., & Shaw, J. (2017). Forgotten evidence: A mixed methods study of why sexual assault kits (SAKs) are not submitted for DNA forensic testing. Law and Human Behavior, 41(5), 454-467. https://doi.org/10.1037/lhb0000252
Campbell, R., Pierce, S. J., Sharma, D. B., Feeney, H., & Fehler-Cabral, G. (2016a). Developing Empirically Informed Policies for Sexual Assault Kit DNA Testing: Is It Too Late to Test Kits Beyond the Statute of Limitations? Criminal Justice Policy Review, 0887403416638507. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0887403416638507
Campbell, R., Pierce, S. J., Sharma, D. B., Feeney, H., & Fehler-Cabral, G. (2016b). Should Rape Kit Testing Be Prioritized by Victim-Offender Relationship?: Empirical Comparison of Forensic Testing Outcomes for Stranger and Nonstranger Sexual Assaults. Criminology & Public Policy, 15(2), 555-583. https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9133.12205
Patterson, D., & Campbell, R. (2012). The Problem of Untested Sexual Assault Kits: Why Are Some Kits Never Submitted to a Crime Laboratory? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27(11), 2259-2275. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260511432155
Peterson, J. L., Hickman, M. J., Strom, K. J., & Johnson, D. J. (2013). Effect of Forensic Evidence on Criminal Justice Case Processing. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 58(s1), S78-S90. https://doi.org/10.1111/1556-4029.12020
Peterson, J. L., Hickman, M. J., Strom, K. J., & Johnson, D. J. (2013). Effect of Forensic Evidence on Criminal Justice Case Processing. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 58(s1), S78-S90. https://doi.org/10.1111/1556-4029.12020
Shaw, J., & Campbell, R. (2013). Predicting Sexual Assault Kit Submission Among Adolescent Rape Cases Treated in Forensic Nurse Examiner Programs. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(18), 3400-3417. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260513504496
Strom, K. J., Hendrix, J. A., Parish, W. J., & Melton, P. (2017). Efficiency in Processing Sexual Assault Kits in Crime Laboratories and Law Enforcement Agencies. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/250682.pdf
Strom, K. J., Hickman, M. J., Mcdonald, H. M. S., Ropero-Miller, J. D., & Stout, P. M. (2011). Crime Laboratory Personnel as Criminal Justice Decision Makers: A Study of Controlled Substance Case Processing in Ten Jurisdictions. Forensic Science Policy & Management: An International Journal, 2(2), 57-69. https://doi.org/10.1080/19409044.2011.573837
Strom, K.J., Hickman, M.J., & Ropero-Miller, J. (2011). Evidence retention policies in U.S. law enforcement agencies: Implications for unsolved cases and post-conviction DNA testing. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 27(2), 133â€“148. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.877.7286&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Valentine, J. L., Sekula, L. K., Cook, L. J., Campbell, R., Colbert, A., & Weedn, V. W. (2016). Justice Denied: Low Submission Rates of Sexual Assault Kits and the Predicting Variables. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 0886260516681881. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260516681881
As more SAKs are tested and the resulting data are entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), we are learning more about the patterns of offendersincluding the fact that they are often serial offenders who target both known and unknown victims.
Sexual Assault Serial Offender Research (SAKI Webinar)
Drs. Luminais and Lovell presented findings from a recently published journal article showing that serial offenders frequently assault strangers and non-strangers; however, one single modus operandi does not exist across assaults. The presenters discussed their findings and why these findings contradict standard practices for investigating sexual assault; the presenters also covered the larger implications of this research for collecting and testing kits and following up on the test results.
Lovell, R. E., Collins, C. C., McGuire, M. J., Overman, L. T., Luminais, M. N., & Flannery, D. J. (2018). Understanding Intimate Partner Sexual Assaults: Findings from Sexual Assault Kits. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 1-17. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10926771.2018.1494234
This article explores intimate partner sexual assault (IPSA) using data collected from 429 cases in which sexual assault kits were tested but not previously adjudicated. The findings provide important insight into the understudied and underreported issue of IPSA.
Lovell, R., Luminais, M., Flannery, D. J., Overman, L., Huang, D., Walker, T., & Clark, D. R. (2017). Offending patterns for serial sex offenders identified via the DNA testing of previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits. Journal of Criminal Justice, 52, 68-78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2017.08.002
This article examines offending patterns of serial and non-serial sex offenders using data derived from sexual assault kits linked via DNA testing. Findings show significant crossover offending by relationship and age; more than 25% of offenders sexually assaulted both strangers and non-strangers. Serial sex offenders often vary their offending pattern across offenses.
Campbell, R., Feeney, H., Pierce, S. J., Sharma, D. B., & Fehler-Cabral, G. (2016). Tested at last: How DNA evidence in untested rape kits can identify offenders and serial sexual assaults. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 0886260516639585. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0886260516639585
Lisak, D., & Miller, P. M. (2002). Repeat rape and multiple offending among undetected rapists. Violence and Victims, 17(1), 73. https://davidlisak.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/RepeatRapeinUndetectedRapists.pdf
Cann, J., Friendship, C., & Gozna, L. (2007). Assessing crossover in a sample of sexual offenders with multiple victims. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 12(1), 149-163. https://doi.org/10.1348/135532506X112439
Kleban, H., Chesin, M. S., Jeglic, E. L., & Mercado, C. C. (2013). An Exploration of Crossover Sexual Offending. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 25(5), 427-443. http://sorl.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Sex-Abuse-2013-Kleban-427-43.pdf
Lovell, R., Butcher, F., & Flannery, D. (2016). Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Pilot Project (SAK) Report on Serial and One-Time Sexual Offenders. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education. Retrieved from http://begun.case.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Serial-vs-Single-Brief.pdf
Lovell, R., Butcher, F., Flannery, D., Overman, L., & Walker, T. (2016). Patterns of Sexual Offending. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education. Retrieved from http://begun.case.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Patterns-Brief.pdf
Campbell, R., Pierce, S. J., Ma, W., Feeney, H., Goodman-Williams, R., & Sharma, D. B. (2019). Will history repeat itself? Growth mixture modeling of suspected serial sexual offending using forensic DNA evidence. Journal of Criminal Justice, 61, 1-12.
Research examining how sexual assault cases are investigated and prosecuted provides valuable information that can be used to solve these cases and hold offenders accountable.
Shared Space Shapes a Shared Mission (SAKI TTA Webinar)
This webinar focused on the findings pertaining to the efficacy of having a shared space for a multidisciplinary team (MDT) that tackles the issue of unsubmitted SAKs; the approach is based on a process evaluation conducted with the Cuyahoga County SAK Task Force. The presenters discussed the positive outcomes of the shared spacenamely fostering a commitment to excellence, increasing morale, and improving communication.
Luminais, M., Lovell, R., & Flannery, D. (2017a). Changing Culture Through Sharing Space. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education. Retrieved from http://begun.case.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Begun_SAKI_Shared-Space-Brief-Draft_final.pdf
Researchers conducted a process evaluation with the Cuyahoga County SAK Task Force to examine the efficacy of having a shared space for a multidisciplinary team to tackle the issue of unsubmitted SAKs. The researchers found many positive outcomes of the shared space, including a culture shift that broke through disciplinary divides.
Campbell, B. A., Menaker, T. A., & King, W. R. (2015). The determination of victim credibility by adult and juvenile sexual assault investigators. Journal of Criminal Justice, 43(1), 29-39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2014.12.001
Lovell, R., Flannery, D., Overman, L., & Walker, T. (2016). What Happened with the Sexual Assault Reports? Then vs. Now. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education. Retrieved from http://begun.case.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Then-and-Now-Brief.pdf
Menaker, T. A., Campbell, B. A., & Wells, W. (2017). The Use of Forensic Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations: Perceptions of Sex Crimes Investigators. Violence Against Women, 23(4), 399-425. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801216641519
Shaw, J., Campbell, R., Cain, D., & Feeney, H. (2017). Beyond surveys and scales: How rape myths manifest in sexual assault police records. Psychology of Violence, 7(4), 602-614. https://doi.org/10.1037/vio0000072
Valentine, J. L., Shaw, J., Lark, A., & Campbell, R. (2016). Now We Know: Assessing Sexual Assault Criminal Justice Case Processing in an Urban Community Using the Sexual Assault Nurse Practitioner Evaluation Toolkit. Journal of Forensic Nursing, 12(3), 133-140. https://doi.org/10.1097/JFN.0000000000000115
Notifying victims is a key aspect of addressing previously unsubmitted SAKs. It is important that sexual assault response teams and multidisciplinary teams develop a victim-centered, trauma-informed victim notification protocol. Explore the following resources for guidance on navigating the notification process.
Campbell, R., Fehler-Cabral, G., & Horsford, S. (2017). Creating a Victim Notification Protocol for Untested Sexual Assault Kits: An Empirically Supported Planning Framework. Journal of Forensic Nursing, 13(1), 3-13. https://doi.org/10.1097/JFN.0000000000000139
Busch-Armendariz, N., & Sulley, C. (2015). Does the Justice Advocate Position Enhance Sex Crimes Investigations: A Report to the Houston Sexual Assault Kit Action Research Working Group. The University of Texas at Austin Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault. http://houstonsakresearch.org/resources/documents/IDVSA_justice.pdf
Joyful Heart Foundation. (2016). Navigating Notification: A Guide to Re-engaging Sexual Assault Survivors Affected by the Untested Rape Kit Backlog. Retrieved from http://www.endthebacklog.org/information-survivors/victim-notification
Sulley, C., Wood, L., Cook Heffron, L., Westbrook, L., Levy, N., Donde, S. D., & Busch-Armendariz, N. (2018). "At Least They're Workin' on My Case?" Victim Notification in Sexual Assault â€œColdâ€� Cases. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260518789905
Cost benefit analyses have been used to compare the costs of testing previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) with the benefits of seeking justice for victims and holding offenders accountable. Explore the following articles for cost estimates and savings associated with testing unsubmitted SAKs.
Hoelscher, S. (2018). The Cost of Not Testing SAFE Kits: An Economic Harm Study. Sexual Assault Response Team Advisory Committee. https://www.kentuckybacklog.com/economic-harm-study
Using data from the first one-third of SAFE kits that were tested with funds from a one-time grant in Kentucky, this report explores the economic cost incurred by victims and taxpayers of not immediately testing SAFE kits upon collection. The costs come from future crimes committed by individuals who would have been identified had the SAFE been swiftly tested.
Singer, M., Lovell, R., & Flannery, D. (2016). Cost Savings and Cost Effectiveness of the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education. Retrieved from http://begun.case.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Cost-Savings-and-Cost-Effectiveness-Brief-1.pdf
Wang, C., & Wein, L. M. (2018). Analyzing Approaches to the Backlog of Untested Sexual Assault Kits in the U.S.A. Journal of Forensic Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1111/1556-4029.13739