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Forensic Compliance Resources

Note:  The information on this website is designed to:  (a) communicate the requirements of the Violence Against Women Act (as reauthorized in 2005 and 2013), and (b) offer recommended practices for implementation.  The goal is to highlight examples of communities striving to achieve a higher standard of the “spirit of the law,” rather than simply meeting the “letter of the law” for VAWA forensic compliance.  It is critically important that readers consult state laws and regulations, as well as local policies and protocols, because they may have additional requirements beyond those included in VAWA 2005 and VAWA 2013.  For more information specific to your state or territory, contact the STOP Grant Administrator or coalition of advocacy organizations providing services for sexual assault victims.  A listing is available from the website for the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. 

Developing a Victim Notification Plan

For detailed guidance on how to develop a victim notification protocol, a number of tools are available. First, some basic recommendations provided by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in: Notifying Sexual Assault Victims After Testing Evidence.

Concrete suggestions can also be found in the Final Report on the Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Project. Particularly relevant are the following sections:

     The Step-By-Step Process of Creating the Detroit Victim Notification Protocol (Figure 5.1, 236-244)

     Challenges & Solutions Encountered in the Implementation of the Detroit SAK ARP Victim Notification Protocol (Figure 5-3, p. 251-255). 

     Lessons Learned: Conducting Victim Notifications (p. 320-323)

     Victim Notification Retreat Planning Guide (Appendix C1, p. 450-473)

The Oregon Recommendations for Survivor Notification provide detailed guidance on a variety of strategies for initial contact, including in-person contact, telephone, letter, email, and notification to the survivor’s designated third party. The recommendations also include sample letters for victim notification.

Lessons Learned Webinar

Many tools are available for notifying victims when the evidence in a cold sexual assault case will be tested or picked up for renewed investigation. This includes a free webinar series offered by the University of Texas School of Social Work. The webinars present information based on “lessons learned” from the Houston Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Project.

Joyful Heart Foundation Report

Also available is a report by the Joyful Heart Foundation, entitled Navigating Notification: A Guide to Re-Engaging Sexual Assault Survivors Affected by the Untested Rape Kit Backlog. This report summarizes findings from interviews with 19 sexual assault survivors and 79 professionals from a variety of involved disciplines.

12 Key Questions to Guide Victim Notification Protocols

Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative (SAKI) and RTI International developed this helpful guidance addressing victim notification protocols.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2013-TA-AX-K045 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.
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