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Director's Message: Addressing Sexual Assault Response — Moving Forward and Finding Solutions


This symposium presents a truly unique opportunity for you to participate in an unprecedented event on an important issue facing our nation: sexual assault.

I am pleased to announce that on September 8-9, 2016, through our longstanding commitment to improving sexual assault response, NIJ is hosting Looking Ahead: The National Sexual Assault Policy Symposium, and I invite all to attend. This event will bring together decision makers and government officials, policymakers, law enforcement representatives, crime lab directors, advocacy organizations, prosecutors and defense attorneys, medical and hospital administrators, and strategists invited from 56 states and territories. 

This symposium presents a truly unique opportunity for you to participate in an unprecedented event on an important issue facing our nation: sexual assault. In addition to a host of talented, knowledgeable subject matter experts participating in the panel sessions, guest speakers include Pulitzer Prize winners T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, co-authors of “An Unbelievable Story of Rape”; Alicia O’Neill from TNT’s “Cold Justice: Sex Crimes”; victims advocate Natasha Alexenko, founder of Natasha’s Justice Project; and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

The agenda has been designed to incorporate the key contributions of NIJ’s research as well as the valuable work we conduct with our colleagues to address the many facets of sexual assault response — from victim-centered first response, to collecting and testing evidence, through case investigation and prosecution. Attendees will also learn about resources available to jurisdictions and successful strategies for responding to sexual assault. There is much great work being done across the nation and I am grateful we have a forum to highlight the challenges faced by our criminal justice system, as well as the great strides we are making to address sexual assault.
As we have learned from our action research projects in Detroit and Houston, it takes a multidisciplinary effort to tackle such a challenging issue. This symposium presents an incredible opportunity to bring together colleagues to share evidence-based experiences and lessons learned from jurisdictions throughout the country. Hosting this event demonstrates NIJ’s dedication to supporting our nation’s policymakers and practitioners as they drive future efforts to solve sexual assault cases, provide justice to victims, and ultimately improve public health and public safety. 

In closing, advances in the technology for processing and analyzing forensic evidence — including expansion of the National DNA database, commonly referred to as CODIS — have brought profound change to the criminal justice system. Science is also helping us identify more effective methods to support victims and provide evidence-based guidance on collecting evidence to improve investigation and prosecution. NIJ continues to be dedicated to improving our nation’s response to sexual assault through its support of scientific research, development, and technical assistance programs. I encourage everyone to learn more about Looking Ahead: The National Sexual Assault Policy Symposium and to register to attend.