Home > Projects > Addressing the National Problem of Untested Sexual Assault Kits

Funder: National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Justice Assistance
PI: Rebecca Campbell
Dates: 2011-2018

When sexual assault victims seek help after an assault, they are advised to have a medical forensic exam (MFE) and sexual assault kit (SAK) (also termed a “rape kit”) to preserve physical evidence of the crime. The evidence in the SAK can be analyzed for DNA, which can be instrumental in solving crimes and prosecuting perpetrators. However, growing number of social science studies and investigative reporting projects indicate that police are not routinely submitting rape kits for forensic DNA testing. Instead, SAKs are often placed in police property storage, unexamined and untested. From 2011 to 2015, the National Institute of Justice funded the Detroit Sexual Assault Kit Action Research Project to develop evidence-based strategies to address the approximately 11,000 untested SAKs in that jurisdiction. We worked with multidisciplinary community stakeholders to create empirically-informed testing plans and victim notification protocols. Now, we are extending that work with funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and our colleagues at RTI International on the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Project to provide training and technical assistance to other U.S. jurisdictions that have large numbers of untested rape kits (see: sakitta.org).

Learn more about this project and watch video interviews with Dr. Rebecca Campbell in the National Institute of Justice’s report, “Down the Road.”  Additional information can be found on this page from the National Institute of Justice.

A White House Blog also covered the project and highlighted the impact this work will make on the bigger picture of untested sexual assault kits.

Resources for communities on untested rape kits:
NIJ Creating a Sexual Assualt Kit Testing Plan Report
NIJ Performing an Audit of Sexual Assult Kits Report
NIJ SAK Victim Notification Report

About RCGV

MSU’s Research Consortium on Gender-Based Violence faculty and staff are dedicated to research and outreach initiatives related to ending and preventing gender-based violence and improving the community response to survivors. RCGV faculty are committed to mentoring the next generation of gender-based violence researchers by providing substantial educational and employment opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a significant and widespread social problem internationally, devastating adults, children, families and societies across the globe. It includes any form of harm that is both a consequence and cause of gender power inequities. It can be physical, psychological, sexual, economic, or sociocultural, and includes but is not limited to sexual abuse, rape, intimate partner abuse, incest, sexual harassment, stalking, femicide, trafficking, gendered hate crimes and dowry abuse. Gender-based violence intersects with race-based, class-based or religiously oppressive forms of abuse, and cross-cuts many other social problems (e.g., poverty, substance abuse, mental and physical health, crime).

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