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Evaluation of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Sexual Assault Kit Initiative

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $1,999,995)

Sexual assault kits (SAKs) are invaluable tools used in investigations to collect evidence such as DNA and to document injuries from alleged victims; this evidence in turn is used to identify and prosecute offenders and to exonerate innocent suspects. Despite the importance of SAKs, backlogs of unsubmitted and untested kits have emerged in jurisdictions across the country (e.g., Peterson and Hickman, 2005; Strom et al., 2009).

Gaps in SAK processing stem from complex issues such as the expanded use of DNA
testing in sexual assault and other cases that can require substantial resources beyond the current capacity of jurisdictions (Wilson, 2016). Other issues relate to complications arising from the fact that different types of organizations must coordinate efforts through each stage
of SAK processing.

The purpose of the proposed project is to assess components of the Bureau of Justice
Assistance (BJA) Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) to prepare for a subsequent comprehensive evaluation. BJA funded 20 sites in 2015 to engage in reforms intended to improve the national response to sexual assault cases. The goals of this initiative were to: (1) create a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to cases through a victim-centered approach, and (2) build jurisdictionsÂ’ capacity to prevent the development of conditions that lead to high numbers of unsubmitted SAKs. The objectives of the proposed study are to: (1) conduct a process evaluation of five advanced SAKI sites that will provide information on what works for newer sites implementing reforms, (2) conduct an evaluability assessment of all 20 sites to determine the readiness to participate in an evaluation of the SAKI and to develop a comprehensive and rigorous evaluation plan, and (3) conduct an impact assessment to determine the extent to which SAKI reforms have resulted in intended (and/or unintended) system changes.

Our study design is a mixed-methods approach including quantitative analysis of
administrative data and qualitative coding and analysis of document reviews, site visit
observations, and interviews. Our proposal plans include an efficient data collection and reporting design that allows for timely ongoing feedback to NIJ, BJA, the Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Provider, grantee sites, and other national stakeholders to apply lessons learned. Findings are expected to result in a comprehensive and rigorous full evaluation plan for the SAKI and positively impact the implementation of SAKI reforms to improve sexual assault investigation practices, victim support services, and collaboration
among agencies. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 26, 2016