Creating a Victim Notification Protocol for Untested Sexual Assault Kits: An Empirically Supported Planning Framework

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Abstract

In cities throughout the United States, hundreds of thousands of sexual assault kits (SAKs) have not been submitted by the police for forensic DNA testing. Given recent media attention and public outcry about this problem, many jurisdictions with large numbers of untested SAKs are deciding to test all previously unsubmitted SAKs, which raises complex issues regarding when and how victims ought to be notified about what has happened to the kits that were collected during their medical forensic examinations. In this project, we collaborated with one community that has had large numbers of untested SAKs—Detroit, Michigan—to develop an empirically supported planning framework for how to create a victim notification protocol. This planning tool presents 12 discussion questions that can guide communities through the process of creating a victim notification protocol tailored to the needs of their local jurisdiction. In this article, we review the evidence (both practice and research based) that can inform discussions about each of these 12 key questions.

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