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The Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Action Research Project

Award Information

Award #
2011-DN-BX-0001
Funding Category
Continuation
Location
Awardee County
Wayne
Congressional District
Status
Closed
Funding First Awarded
2011
Total funding (to date)
$1,515,000

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2011, $200,000)

The grantee will conduct Phase I of a two phase Action Research Project examining the problem of untested Sexual Assault Kits in the Detroit Police Department storage room. A preliminary audit has confirmed at least 8,461 kits were never submitted to a crime lab analysis. To respond to this problem, key stakeholders, including the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police Crime Lab, and Detroit-area victim service organizations, have agreed to work together in this action research project to study why this happened and how it can be resolved. The Detroit SAK Action Research Project will follow McEwen's action research model for locally-initiated research partnership programs. The mission is to study the problem of untested kits in Detroit, to develop model protocols, and to implement and evaluate those protocols. ca/ncf

The mission of the Detroit SAK Action Research Project is to study the problem of untested kits in Detroit, to develop model protocols, and to implement and evaluate those protocols. In Phase I, the project identified the problem, conducted reconnaissance, and developed preliminary research steps. In Phase II, planning efforts will continue for an additional six months for two specific tasks. First, the confirmed sexual assault cases identified in the Phase I audit will require dditional investigative effort to determine whether they can be considered for prosecution. Police files and medical records will be matched to each case, and then as the records are successfully matched, each case will be assigned to an investigator to begin the work of evaluating the case (e.g., identifying suspect/victim, locating victim/suspect). In addition, cases that are near expiration for statute of limitations (SOL) will be targeted, and it is expected that those kits will be sent for testing as quickly as possible.

The first major goal of this project is to develop a "Case Response Protocol" that will detail the procedures, actions, and timelines to be followed for every case. Second, "Victim Notification Protocols" will be developed that stipulate how and when victims will be informed about the status of their cases. Because this is a particularly sensitive and complex task, experts in Michigan and at the national level will be consulted to develop these materials. In Phase II, four expert workgroup meetings will be conducted, which will include staff from core partner advocacy organizations, collaborative partners, as well as highly experienced advocates from other Michigan rape crisis centers and research experts from the Michigan State University's Violence Against Women Research & Outreach Initiative. Following this six-month continued planning, the developed protocols will be implemented as cases move through investigation to prosecution (for one year; total Phase II project time is 18 months).

Throughout these activities, the evaluation component will continue to document the processes followed in Detroit in order to develop "transportable lessons" for other communities struggling with the problem of untested SAKs. In Phase II, the evaluators will continue to conduct longitudinal qualitative interviews to understand the underlying causes of why so many untested SAKs accumulated in Detroit. Ethnographic observations will also continue of all core and collaborative partners meetings to document the choice points, debates, and decisions made by this community. During the implementation activities in Phase II, the evaluators will conduct quantitative and qualitative analyses to examine what factors predict successful prosecution and how victims respond to being re-contacted about their assaults so long after the initial incident.
nca/ncf

The mission of the Detroit SAK Action Research Project is to study the problem of untested sexual assault kits (SAK) in Detroit, MI, to develop pilot response protocols, and to implement and evaluate those protocols. In Phase I (April, 2011 to September, 2011) the grantee completed an audit of the 10,000+ SAKs in police property in order to have accurate information as to the scope of the problem. The completed audit revealed that there were 11,304 SAKs in DPD property (through 2009), 8,505 of which had never been submitted to the crime lab. In Phase II (October 2011 to September 2012) the grantee developed a plan for testing these kits. The Detroit collaborative did not have sufficient funds to test all of these kits in the context of this project. Leveraging resources from DOJ DNA Backlog Reduction Grants, the NIJ SAK grant, and Marshall University, it was determined that we could test N=1,600 kits. Four separate research studies ("waves") were designed to address specific questions regarding the utility of SAK testing in advancing the investigation and prosecution of reported sexual assaults (Wave 1: stranger rape kits, n=450; Wave 3: non-stranger rape kits, n=450; Wave 2: comparing DNA testing methodologies, n=350; Wave 4: presumed statute of limitations (SOL)-expired kits, n=350). SAKs from Waves 1 and 3 were submitted for testing in Phase II; kits from Waves 2 and 4 will be submitted near the end of Phase II/beginning of Phase III. In Phase III of this project, the grantee will complete all SAK testing and associated research analyses. The grantee will also implement and evaluate a multidisciplinary victim notification protocol. Finally, the grantee will complete a longitudinal investigation as to the underlying reasons why Detroit had so many untested SAKs. The final report will also document the processes followed in Detroit in order to develop "transportable lessons" for other communities struggling with the problem of untested SAKs. na/ncf

Date Created: March 21, 2011