Best Practice Resources

Best Practice Resources

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The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) created an online Technology & Confidentiality Resources Toolkit that addresses common questions that agencies and advocates who work with survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking frequently have regarding confidentiality and the release of information. The National Crime Victim Law Institute has a publication available on confidentiality titled: “Confidentiality and Sexual Violence Survivors: A Toolkit for State Coalitions.”

This training bulletin explores the tension that is sometimes experienced between law enforcement and victim advocates in the community. It offers a detailed description of the advocate’s role during the criminal justice process, with particular focus on their involvement during forensic exams or interviews. Next, the bulletin addresses the fact that many law enforcement officers, forensic examiners, and other community professionals are reluctant to involve advocates in the process, so we address some of the common factors underlying this reluctance and offer strategies to resolve them. 

RTI International has created an online training course on “How to be a Good Expert Witness.”

Also available is a webinar by Russell Strand, entitled Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview: A Trauma Informed Experience. This webinar provides information on the neurobiology of trauma and the implications for successfully interviewing sexual assault victims.

An archived webinar is available on the EVAWI website, entitled Prosecuting Converted Cases. It addresses a range of issues such as: “What should we call these cases?” “How are they viewed?” “How should they be investigated?” “How do we overcome challenges for prosecution?”

It is also worth mentioning that we have another archived webinar on Effective Victim Interviewing, presented by Roger Canaff and Joanne Archambault. While it does not specifically address the neurobiology of trauma and its implications, valuable guidance is provided for successfully interviewing victims of sexual assault with an eye toward criminal prosecution.

EVAWI offers a two-part series of webinars on the topic of Neurobiology of Sexual Assaultpresented by Dr. Jim Hopper. In Part 1, he discusses Experience and Behavior. Part 2 focuses on Experience and Memory.

In the article entitled, False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault, Dr. Kim Lonsway, Sgt. Joanne Archambault (Ret.), and Dr. David Lisak explore the prevalence on false reports of sexual assault, and then discuss the underlying societal beliefs and attitudes associated with false reporting.

Our VOICE (an advocacy program in Asheville, North Carolina) worked collaboratively with the Asheville Police Department and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office to offer blind reporting for sexual assault victims, using an online form provided on the Our VOICE website. Victims are advised that they may provide as much or as little information about their sexual assault as they choose. They are also free to provide contact information for themselves and/or for the suspect(s), but an investigation will not be started unless the survivor chooses that options. Our VOICE staff reviews all of the reports, and submits them to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

This training module is designed to help professionals within the criminal justice and community response system, including advocates themselves, better understand the role of victim advocates. (Please note that there is considerable overlap between the content of this training module and Course #12 on Effective Victim Advocacy in the Criminal Justice System: A Training Course for Victim Advocates.)

EVAWI’s template materials for non-investigative reporting include instructions and forms to document a victim’s choices among a variety of options for the response of health care providers and law enforcement officials. Language and documentation are therefore included to guide victims through the process of case conversion. Similar language is provided in the Minnesota Model Policies for Forensic Compliance.

Sample forms are also available for documenting a victim’s consent to release evidence from a medical forensic exam to law enforcement for use in a standard investigative process. Examples are provided from (1) the Texas Department of Public Safety, (2) Duluth Minnesota, and (3) the Trauma Recovery Center at the University of California San Francisco.

This toolkit is a step-by-step guide that leads SART Coordinators through the process of reviewing law enforcement case files. It is designed to help identify areas where a SART is successful in its response to victims, and other areas where it can improve. Information is provided for each of the core agencies in the SART: Law Enforcement, Medical, Prosecution, Advocacy, and Probation. The toolkit provides insights into how to make connections that help improve the criminal justice process for victims and agencies while also helping teams discover a multitude of opportunities and best practices to explore.

This article in Police Chief Magazine provides a detailed overview of the Start by Believing campaign, includes the history, community examples, and the potential impact of the campaign.

The National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) has a publication available entitled, Rights and Remedies: Meeting the Civil Legal Needs of Sexual Violence Survivors.”Their library also includes a number of documents on specific topics, such as privacy rights, discovery requests, and others.

The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault publishes a guidebook for victims on civil lawsuits.

This 7-part series of training bulletins was developed by EVAWI to explain the various methods that law enforcement agencies use for clearing crime reports. In the first installment, we outline the definition and criteria for clearance by arrest. In subsequent bulletins, we explore the other two primary methods: exceptional clearance and unfounding. Finally, we discuss some of the problems and challenges with the way clearance methods are used by various law enforcement agencies across the country.

Detailed information on the topic of clearance methods in sexual assault cases is available in the OnLine Training Institute module of the same name. In this training module, we provide information for officers, investigators, and supervisors who make decisions regarding how to clear or otherwise close sexual assault cases. These determinations can be extremely difficult, yet many law enforcement personnel are provided little or no guidance in how to make them appropriately. Therefore, in this module we walk through the various ways in which a sexual assault case can be cleared or otherwise closed, and how some are not really closed at all but simply suspended or inactivated. Interestingly, these questions go to the heart of some of the most difficult aspects of sexual assault investigation, particularly in those cases where the victim and the suspect know each other. This module may therefore be the most challenging one in this entire training curriculum.

This article in Sexual Assault Report by authors Dr. Kim Lonsway and Sgt. (Ret.) Joanne Archambault offers a brief review of the laws in six states that provide victims of sexual assault with a right to have an advocate (or personal representative) present during a medical forensic examination, as well as a general overview of advocacy and the benefit of advocacy. The article was designed to complement others in the issue, including a more detailed review of the laws regarding a victim’s right to have an advocate during the medical forensic examination; this legal compilation was written by Charlene Whitman and is available from AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women.

These protocols were created as a result of the Sexual Assault Kit Action-Research Task Force in Houston, Texas. They establish the groundwork for how cold case investigation will proceed after analysis of the sexual assault kit (SAK) is complete, including investigative and victim notification procedures.

This training module provides guidance on crime scene processing, a systematic, meticulous, and scientific process that law enforcement investigators should employ in every major criminal investigation.

Detailed information on crime victim rights in each state as well as federal jurisdictions is provided by the National Crime Victim Rights Law Institute (NCVLI).

The National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) has a publication available titled: “A Criminal Justice Guide: Legal Remedies for Adult Victims of Sexual Violence.”Their library also includes a number of documents on specific topics, such as crime victim rights, courtroom procedures, evidentiary issues, the confrontation clause, restitution, and others.

The Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Task Force was established in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, to investigate and potentially prosecute cases associated with approximately 5000 previously unsubmitted SAKs. Research is now being conducted to understand more about these unsubmitted SAKs and explore how this can inform criminal justice responses across the country. Specifically, the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Pilot Research Project is being conducted by The Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University. Their work has already produced several extremely valuable research briefs, summarizing the findings and exploring critical “lessons learned” for the field:

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)

This training module explores the complex role of DNA and other biological evidence in a sexual assault investigation. A number of resources and tools are provided, along with a series of complex and interactive case examples. The module was co-authored by EVAWI’s Joanne Archambault and Kim Lonswayalong with Dr. Patrick O’Donnell (Supervising CriminalistSan Diego Police Department) and Lauren Ware (Chief of the Forensics and Special Investigative Branch at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center).

In this 7-part series of Training Bulletins we explore the role of DNA and other biological evidence in a sexual assault investigation. It is based on our 32-hour OLTI module, we explore the role of DNA and other biological evidence in a sexual assault investigation. It is based on our 32-hour OLTI module, and includes a number of resources and tools along with interactive case examples.

In this article in Sexual Assault Reportauthor Sgt. (Ret.) Joanne Archambault examines the question of whether a victim’s head and pubic hair should be snipped or plucked. While many programs have historically plucked hairs, Sgt. Archambault argues that this uncomfortable procedure is not justified because of the extremely low possibility that they will be used in the prosecution of a sexual assault.

The publication entitled, “Absence of Anogenital Injury in the Adolescent Adult Female Sexual Assault Patient” by AEquitas, discusses the absence of injury in sexual assault cases. After reviewing 43 studies, the author determines that lack of injury is common, though a lack of studies on anal penetration and injury makes it difficult to determine how frequently that type of assault results in injury.

This training module is designed to explore the dynamics of sexual assault by examining common misconceptions and stereotypes, and reviewing research on the prevalence and characteristics of sexual assault. These dynamics have profound implications for the law enforcement investigation, victim responses, and strategies for successful prosecution.

This training module is designed to help investigators write a thorough, well written report that will support successful prosecution of a sexual assault case. Recommendations are equally helpful for other professionals on how to write and speak about sexual assault issues.

A training module on Effective Victim Advocacy within the Criminal Justice System is also available in the OnLine Training Institute (OLTI). This module offers detailed guidance on the role of community-based and system-based victim advocates, specifically for work that intersects with the criminal justice system.

This webinar provided by Joanne Archambault and Roger Canaff provides training content drawn from the OLTI module on Interviewing the Victim, which walks participants through the stages and techniques for successfully interviewing sexual assault victims.

EVAWI created a Model Policy Resource: Law Enforcement Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Accountability to help law enforcement agencies work collaboratively with agency personnel, community partners, and legal counsel to develop their own agency-specific policy to address sexual misconduct committed by sworn and civilian personnel. It is provided in an accessible format (Word) that can be easily adapted by law enforcement agencies to create a new policy or build on an existing policy.

This Training Bulletin addresses the question of whether or not evidence collected in association with a non-investigative report (often referred to as an anonymous report) should be submitted to the laboratory for analysis. In short, the answer is no.

The Kansas Sexual Assault Kit (SAKI) Initiative developed a policy that includes guidelines for submitting sexual assault evidence collection kits to a forensic laboratory, retaining them within their property rooms, the eventual disposal of evidence, and what to do with “anonymous kits.”

The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) offers an Evidence Tracking Toolkit, which includes documents, webinars, and other resources on a three key topics: (1) Conducting a Sexual Assault Kit Inventory, (2) Selecting and Implementing and Evidence Tracking System, and (3) Sample Evidence Tracking Systems.

AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women has prepared a legal compilation on the use of expert testimony on victim behavior.

This training module is designed to directly confront the issue of false reporting by showing that the “red flags” that typically raise suspicion are often the realistic dynamics of sexual assault. Research on false reports is reviewed, and the implications are explored for effective criminal justice and community responses.

This report provides a wealth of valuable information on untested evidence and cold case investigation. Particularly relevant are the following sections: The Step-By-Step Process of Creating the Detroit Victim Notification Protocol; Challenges and Solutions Encountered in the Implementation of the Detroit SAK ARP Victim Notification Protocol; Lessons Learned: Conducting Victim Notifications; Victim Notification Retreat Planning Guide.

This training module is designed to improve the use of forensic examinations to collect evidence from the bodies and clothing of both victims and suspects during a sexual assault investigation. The module goes beyond simply explaining the procedures that are used during victim and suspect forensic examinations. It also explores the different types of evidence that may be gathered during these examinations and describes how this evidence can be used to advance a sexual assault investigation. It also gives participants an opportunity to apply what is learned through case study activities. Ultimately, the goal of this module is to encourage professionals involved in these cases to push past traditional ways of thinking about evidence, to critically analyze how each piece of information gathered fits into the complicated puzzle of a comprehensive investigation.

This EVAWI training bulletin addresses the critically important (but all too often overlooked) source of evidence in a sexual assault investigation, the suspect examination. In our experience, we have found that most law enforcement agencies have failed to establish appropriate policies and procedures for obtaining comprehensive forensic examinations for sexual assault suspects which is unfortunate, given the potential for recovering probative evidence from the body as well as the clothing of suspects

EVAWI offers a Training Bulletin series designed to explore the phenomenon of gender bias, both explicit (conscious) and implicit (unconscious), and the resulting stereotypes and attitudes that can influence the professional response to, and investigation of, sexual assault. We explore strategies that can be used to identify the presence of implicit gender bias and mitigate its influence, and address key questions about how implicit gender bias can disadvantage (or advantage) either the victim and/or suspect.

It can be beneficial for investigators to familiarize themselves with grounding techniques that can be used to assist victims who have a flashback during the interview. A flashback can occur as the result of the victim “re-living” the assault.

When victims are given options for alternative reporting methods, it will be necessary to develop a form for them to use. One recommendation is to adapt the Supplemental Reporting Form developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). This form is also posted on the IACP website, along with corresponding guidelines for successfully investigating sexual assault cases. These tools are based upon national best practices regarding sexual assault investigations and were developed in collaboration with local, state, and federal law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates, medical, and forensic professionals. The goal is to support officers and departments in preparing sexual assault cases for successful prosecution through detailed case documentation and thorough investigations. (Note: These guidelines are not intended for use when the victim is a minor.)

The profound impact of implicit bias on criminal justice processing is highlighted in this guidance published by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2015. The DOJ guidance clearly calls on law enforcement agencies to recognize and eliminate bias.

In this Training Bulletin, we review the research literature on sexual assault disclosures and the responses survivors receive from both informal and formal support providers. We also examine public awareness campaigns designed to prevent sexual assault and improve responses to survivors. This includes outlining the rationale for our Start by Believing campaign and describing preliminary evidence for its positive impact. The ultimate goal is to improve responses to sexual assault victims around the world.

In 2019, the IACP released a resolution declaring that agencies should integrate victim services into their day to day operations so that crime victims have immediate access to professional personnel who understand the complexities of trauma and victim needs.

This training module provides detailed guidance for how to conduct a successful interview with a victim of sexual assault, with particular emphasis on sexual assaults committed by someone known to the victim (i.e.a non-stranger).

Sexual assault victims have long faced unwarranted skepticism from friends and family members, as well as responding professionals. In this Training Bulletin, we document examples of this historical bias and examine a few measures that have been taken to help ameliorate it. In particular, we focus on the Start by Believing philosophy and examine its relevance for victim and suspect interviews. Our goal is to inform criminal justice professionals and others about what this philosophy does – and does not – say about how to approach sexual assault cases, including interviews with victims, suspects, and witnesses. Ultimately, we emphasize that Start by Believing is an approach to conducting thorough, professional, and unbiased investigations.

This webinar provided by Chris Mallios (of AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women) is designed to help communities prepare to meet the challenges of successfully investigating and prosecuting “converted” cases. The term “converted case” is used to refer to the situation where a victim presents for a medical forensic exam and initially declines to speak with law enforcement, but ultimately decides to “convert” and fully participate in the criminal justice process.

This webinar, with presenters Shirley Paceley, Sgt. Joanne Archambault, and Dr. Kim Lonsway is primarily focused on a law enforcement perspective, providing information and guidance for first responders as well as investigators and even prosecutors. However, it is intended to be equally helpful for others whose work intersects with the criminal justice system, to ensure that people with disabilities who are victimized have equal access to information, programs, and services – and that they are treated with fairness, compassion, and respect. Everyone involved in the criminal justice and community response system plays a critical role in providing that access and fair treatment.

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.

This guidance from the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) and RTI International is designed to help communities grapple with the questions of whether, when, why, and how to notify victims about testing evidence in their sexual assault case. Specifically, the guidance provides information on the two types of victim notification: active outreach notification and opt-in notification.

The Vera Institute of Justice developed an article titled: “Overcoming language barriers: Solutions for law enforcement” developed by the Vera Institute of Justice.

This training module is designed to help law enforcement investigators develop an investigative strategy to overcome common defense strategies, by reviewing the elements of a sexual assault case and exploring the evidence that can potentially support each element.

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.

A legal compilation on reporting requirement for competent adult victims of sexual violence is available from AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women. Please visit their website to request the most up to date compilation.

This EVAWI webinar, moderated by Sgt. Joanne Archambault (Ret.) and Dr. Kim Lonsway of EVAW International, with expert presenters include Kim Day, and Teresa Scalzois designed to clarify the complex issues surrounding medical mandated reporting and explore questions regarding compliance with VAWA 2005 provisions and forensic exams.

Some states require medical personnel to report to law enforcement when a patient discloses that she/he has been sexually assaulted. Attached is a sample form with instructions for the state of California. In California, most forensic exams are conducted with a report to law enforcement, so the mandated reporting requirement is met when the forensic examiner submits the standard form (known as the “OES-923 Form” for documenting evidence from an adult victim of sexual assault). However, when a forensic exam is conducted without a report to law enforcement, medical personnel must still meet their requirement of mandated reporting. Some forensic examiners have therefore used this alternative form and instructions provided below to report the sexual assault to law enforcement without the victim’s participation.

Community professionals in Duluth, Minnesota have implemented a fully functioning protocol they describe as anonymous third party reporting. Their multidisciplinary team, led by the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA) developed the following materials to implement the protocol, so they can be used as a starting point to adapt for use in other communities:

The West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services (FRIS) has led efforts to develop a regional mobile SANE project in its state. This project allows the sharing of SANEs among five participating hospitals in a five-county area; an on-call SANE goes to the hospital where the sexual assault patient presents.

The Kansas Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) created a model policy and training guide on Investigating Sexual Assault, as well as a policy on Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Submission, Retention, and Disposal, in an effort to ensure consistency across the state for law enforcement responses from dispatch through investigation, and referral for prosecution. The document was developed by the Kansas SAKI Multidisciplinary Working Group, which includes representatives from law enforcement, prosecution, prosecution, community-based and system-based victim advocacy, forensic nursing, and the forensic science laboratory. The Working Group also created a helpful guidance that accompanies their Model Policy on Investigating Sexual Assault, to provide additional clarification on “unfounded” case coding. This document explicitly defines when cases should be coded as unfounded, and when they should not.

EVAWI created model policy materials on Evidence Retention and Disposition and/or Removal to provide law enforcement agencies guidance in this area. The materials include sample language to use when developing an agency policy, as well as instructional commentary and template materials. It can therefore be used as an educational tool as well as a resource to assist in the development of policies, as well as instructional commentary and template materials. It can therefore be used as an educational tool as well as a resource to assist in the development of policies, protocols, and training materials.

There are also 2 different versions, depending on whether or not your state has medical mandated reporting.

Professionals in Alachua County, Florida created this multi-disciplinary video detailing the role of Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) members, including victim advocates, forensic medical examiners, investigators, and prosecutors. Team members share strategies from each disciplinary perspective on how to respond in a supportive, trauma-informed manner. The video was created by the Alachua County Communications Department.

The issue of timelines for evidence collection is also discussed in the A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations (2013) (adults/adolescents), published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

For detailed information on the medical forensic exam, please see the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations (2013) (adults/adolescents) which is published by the Office on Violence Against Women.

In 2017, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) published National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach, a compilation of recommendations with a corresponding online glossary of terms. Specifically, NIJ’s expert working group created 35 recommendations to guide victim-centered approaches for responding to sexual assault cases and better supporting victims throughout the criminal justice process. The recommendations emphasize the use of collaborative, victim-centered, victim-centered, and multidisciplinary approaches to improve evidence collection and preservation, increase consistency and provide uniformity for the prioritization and transferal of evidence, enhance laboratory process efficiencies for DNA testing, and advance investigative practices and agency protocols for: evidence inventory, tracking and audits, and communication systems.

Exam timelines are also discussed in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, entitled Care of the Adult Patient after Sexual Assault. It was written by Judith A. Linden and appeared in the September 2011 edition, Volume 365, Number 9, p. 834-841.

New Hampshire offers this statewide protocol on the care of patients who have experienced sexual assault. This protocol is a statutory mandate for all hospitals and physicians in the state of New Hampshire providing medical forensic exams to victims of sexual assault. The Protocol is continually being revised in an effort to improve evidence collection outcomes for patients who have experienced sexual assault, to maximize the continuity of care for patients who have experienced sexual assault.

This training bulletin provides information on new options for GHB testing.  Testing issues related to the drug gamma hydroxy-butyrate (GHB) are complex and a frequent source of questions. GHB has been a perplexing drug to detect in biological samples due to rapid dissipation from blood (four hours) and urine (12 hours). Thus any delay in reporting is an initial factor in the inability to identify GHB.

EVAWI has developed a set of templates to help communities implement a multidisciplinary protocol for non-investigative reporting of a sexual assault to law enforcement. At the time the materials were developed, this was typically referred to as “anonymous reporting.” These documents are posted in Word format, so they can be easily modified for use in communities across the country. Questions are highlighted in yellow that will need to be addressed to adapt the materials. You will also need to revise the wording to reflect the unique structure of your multidisciplinary community protocol. In other words, these materials represent only the “starting point.” They can be tailored based on the specific agencies, laws, resources, and other unique factors in your community environment.

This training bulletin examines the question of whether routine notification of advocates violates the privacy protections outlined in HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). Although the name of the patient might not be revealed when an advocate is called out to respond, some have interpreted the face to face contact that may be made as violating HIPAA. Many programs continue to struggle with this issue and have a real desire to assure meaningful access to advocacy services.

The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General offers an example of a community-wide protocol for notifying advocates as seen in the “Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault.”

This publication from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) offers lessons learned and basic recommendations for victim notification.

A training module in the OnLine Training Institute (OLTI) explores the complex role of DNA and other biological evidence in a sexual assault investigation. A number of resources and tools are provided, along with a series of complex and interactive case examples.

Templates are also available to provide victims with information about their options for the medical forensic examination and to document their preferences.

First is a document providing victims with information about their options for: medical testing and treatment, forensic evidence collection, reporting to law enforcement, and follow-up contact.

Second is a form (entitled “Choosing Your Options”) that can be used to document the victim’s preferences, and it is designed to correspond to the informational document. The form can also be used to document information such as the medical record number or patient number, contact information for the exam facility and law enforcement agency, and the law enforcement case number (if there is one).

Again, there are 2 different versions of the templates, depending on whether they will be tailored for use in a state with or without medical mandated reporting for sexual assault. You will need to address the questions in yellow and make changes to the wording to reflect your multidisciplinary protocol. You will also need to fill in the name of the specific facility conducting medical forensic examinations. The documents refer to the “SAFE program” but you will need to replace it with the name of the facility providing medical forensic exams in your community.

States with Medical Mandated Reporting for Sexual Assault:

States without Medical Mandated Reporting for Sexual Assault:

In this article False Allegations, Case Unfounding, and Victim Recantations in the Context of Sexual Assault, the Sexual Assault Task Force of the Oregon Attorney General’s Office seeks to clarify and distinguish terms that are often misused, such as: victim recantation, false allegations, and unfounding to ensure that victims receive a consistent, professional and knowledgeable response.

Dr. David Lisak provides training on The Neurobiology of Trauma in a webinar hosted by the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) published a critical position paper, offering guidance on the storage and testing of evidence in a non-investigative case. Entitled Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiatives and Non-Investigative Kits, the paper outlines three reasons for not submitting evidence in a non-investigative case to the laboratory for analysis. The paper also offers additional background, guidance, and context for this complex and challenging issue.

This PowerPoint presentation was developed by Joanne Archambault and Kim Lonsway, in collaboration with Brian Lew of the San Diego Police Department’s Forensic Biology Unit.  It explains the nature of the “DNA backlog” and explores the role of DNA in a sexual assault investigation.  Topics include the primary sources and purposes of DNA evidence, the three-tier structure of CODIS (on the local, state, and national level), and strategies for evidence assessment, particularly when prioritizing laboratory service requests for the analysis of particular pieces of evidence based on specific case facts.  The presentation also covers the historical background as well as the future promise – and challenge – of DNA technologies in the context of sexual assault investigations.

Most of this training module is drawn directly from the Concepts and Issues Paper on Investigating Sexual Assault developed by the National Law Enforcement Policy Center of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Detailed guidance is provided for the preliminary response and law enforcement investigation of sexual assault.

A legal compilation is available from AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women to summarize the statutes pertaining to the presence of a victim advocate during the medical forensic examination. Please visit their website to request the most up to date compilation.

An archived recording is available of a presentation given by Anthony J. Onorato, Chief of the FBI Nuclear DNA Unit. The presentation was given at a conference hosted by the National Institute of Justice on September 8-9, 2016. The symposium was entitled, Looking Ahead: The National Sexual Assault Policy Symposium. Chief Onorato’s presentation was included on Panel 7 entitled “In the Lab – Testing Sexual Assault Evidence.”

This report, by the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK, analyzes the cases where someone was prosecuted for filing a false report of sexual assault, domestic violence, or both. The report outlines the key findings of that review, as well as guidance for criminal justice professionals to apply when a charging decision is being made in such a case.

The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence provides a summary of protective orders available in each state.

Through an examination of case studies, after-action reviews, and the emerging national demand for increased accountability for all forms of sexual misconduct, Chief Tom Tremblay (Ret.) offers an EVAWI webinar entitled, Public Trust: Confronting Law Enforcement Sexual Misconduct in the #MeToo Era. In it, Chief Tremblay encourages courageous conversations and inspires proactive leadership strategies to address and prevent law enforcement sexual misconduct.

One helpful article was written by David Lisak and Dave Markel in The Police Chief magazine (2016, January). It is entitled, “Using science to increase effectiveness of sexual assault investigations.”

Dr. Jim Hopper has a number of helpful resources on the neurobiology of sexual assault. First, is a short article entitled, Why Many Rape Victims Don’t Fight or Yell.” It appeared in the Washington Post on June 23, 2015, and provides an excellent summary of the neurobiology of trauma and the implications for victim behavior during a sexual assault. Dr. Hopper also maintains a webpage on sexual assault and the brain, as well as a blog and a YouTube channel.

Dr. Hopper also co-authored an article with Dr. David Lisakentitled: “Why Rape and Trauma Survivors Have Fragmented and Incomplete Memories.” This article was posted on Time.com, and it also provides a detailed yet accessible explanation of how trauma can impact behavior and memory. The article draws helpful parallels to the scenario where a police officer is “suddenly staring at the wrong end of a gun.”

Finally, there is a short article posted on Slate that offers a practical description of the issues involved in trauma, neurobiology, memory, and police interview.

Rape and Sexual Assault Analyses and Laws from AEquitas offers a comprehensive review of the rape and sexual assault laws in all 50 states, U.S. Territories, U.S. Military, and federal jurisdictions (as of July, 2012). AEquitas also offers a legal compilation of the statute of limitations for sexual assault offenses.  Please visit their website to request the most up to date compilation.

For a summary of rape shield statutes in each state, please see the chart compiled by the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women at the National District Attorneys’ Association. A legal compilation of rape shield statutes has also been prepared by AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women. Please visit their website to request the most up to date compilation.

The National Crime Victim Law Institute has also published an article specifically addressing the exclusion of evidence of sexual history between the victim and defendant.

This Training Bulletin focuses on the scenario where victims summon the courage to report a sexual assault, only to be disbelieved, mistreated, and later charged (often erroneously) with false reporting or associated crimes such as obstruction of justice, interfering with law enforcement, or providing false statements. Some have even been charged with a felony crime of evidence tampering, for obtaining a medical forensic examination. In other words, the evidence they are accused of tampering with is their very own body. We explain how these scenarios unfold, highlighting factors that distinguish an interview conducted with a victim versus a suspect in a criminal investigation, and documents how this can result in a coerced recantation or false confession. We then conclude with a discussion of how these injustices can be prevented.

This training bulletin explores the critical decision of whether or not to tape the victim interview (either audio or video). This can be a controversial issue in some communities, and both police and prosecutors must weigh the advantages and disadvantages before implementing any policy. However, it is worth noting that interviews with child victims have been taped for years, and law enforcement professionals and others typically recognize the important advantages of this practice. Many of the same advantages exist for adult and adolescent victims.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) prepared a resource providing detailed information on survivor confidentiality and release waivers entitled, Frequently Asked Questions on Survivor Confidentiality Releases.”

In 2019, the IACP released a resolution stating that victims should not be asked to sign non-investigate or non-prosecution statements or waivers, acknowledging that these forms may deter them from reporting future crimes or seeking victim services.

If a release wavier is going to be used for the purpose of documenting the victim’s wishes, a sample form is the Victim Preference Statement developed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). This form can be adapted by other agencies, particularly because it meets several purposes beyond simply documenting victim preferences. By asking victims to read and sign the statement a number of purposes are actually met:

  • Explaining the various reporting options for victims
  • Explaining the limitations of alternative reporting methods
  • Memorializing the victim’s decision regarding reporting and participation
  • Documenting the involvement of an advocate or other advisor in the process

The Victim Reporting Preference Statement is also available in the SAPR Toolkit, to provide information for victims about their options and document their reporting selection.

This training module provides guidance for officers and investigators on making the critical determination whether a sexual assault will be recorded with an official crime report or an informational report – and exploring the implications for subsequent criminal justice processing.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center created a guide for sexual assault advocates to respond to survivors with autism spectrum disorders. Although this guide is intended for advocates, professionals from other disciplines can benefit from the information included on the characteristics of autism, communication techniques, connecting with caregivers, accommodations and safety planning.

This training bulletin was developed to provide guidance on responding to victims who are assaulted while they are away from home– not only for law enforcement professionals – but also to inform other community professionals about the options that are available for the law enforcement response in this type of situation.

This resource from the Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI) at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) includes tools, templates, and evaluation basics begin assessing the impact of a SART on community responses to sexual assault. It was created with multidisciplinary team leadership and members in mind, so it does not include every step and detail of each evaluation method. Rather it is intended to spark interest in thinking about ways some of the examples provided can be picked up by teams and modified, to shape an evaluation process that fits that team’s specific needs.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC): The NSVRC offers a variety of resources to help communities assess their readiness for SART development, guide implementation, and enhance sustainability. Resources include a SART Readiness Assessment Toolthe 2009 SART Survey Report, and a SART Team Development Guide for Victim Service Providers. The NSVRC also offers a National Sexual Assault Response Team Toolkit.

Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force: The Oregon Attorney General’s Office Sexual Assault Task Force offers a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Handbook (updated in 2009) which provides a useful overview of criminal justice procedures.

California SART Manual: The California SART Manual is available for purchase from the California Clinical Forensic Medical Training Center.

Sustaining a Coordinated Community Response: Sexual Assault Response and Resource Teams (SARRT): This training module is designed to explain what is meant by a “Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team” (SARRT)and discuss how to establish, expand, and sustain one in your community. (Please note that there is considerable overlap between the content of this training module and Course #11 on Sexual Assault Response and Resource Teams: A Guide for Rural and Remote Communities.)

Sexual Assault Response and Resource Teams (SARRT): A Guide for Rural and Remote Communities: This training module is designed to guide communities in overcoming the unique challenges faced by professionals who respond to sexual assault in rural and remote communities – by improving the coordination of services for victims across disciplines and agencies. (Please note that there is considerable overlap between the content of this training module and Course #8 on Sustaining a Coordinated Community Response: Sexual Assault Response and Resource Teams.)

Statewide

New Jersey: The New Jersey State Standards (2004) were developed collaboratively by professionals from a variety of disciplines and designed to serve as a foundation for establishing county policies and procedures, so they could be easily adapted by SARRTS in any community.

North Dakota: The North Dakota Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Protocol is another good model for developing a community-wide protocol based on multidisciplinary collaboration, although it focuses primarily on the issues of forensic evidence collection.

Community

Cambria County, PA: The Cambria County PA Sexual Assault Protocol (2012) is excellent and comprehensive, and includes a consent form for victims who report anonymously, authorizing the collection, documentation, and release of evidence (to be stored at the municipal police department).

Denver, CO: The Sexual Assault Interagency Council in Denver, CO was one of the first communities to formalize a process designed to prevent sexual assault victims from being re-victimized by the criminal justice response. Now in its 4th edition, their protocol is routinely updated by the council to reflect expansion and changes in law.

San Diego, CA: One very good model for a standardized, community-wide protocol can be found in San Diego County, where their Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) developed detailed standards of practice for the many agencies representing law enforcement, health care, crisis care, victim advocacy, crime laboratories, prosecution, and the judiciary. The San Diego County SART Standards of Practice (2001) and the protocol for children who are victims or witness of crime are both available online (updated in 2000).

City Proclamation

Several communities have issued a proclamation honoring the efforts of the SARRTand even declaring a day to be “Sexual Assault Response Team Day.” One example of such a proclamation is from San Diego, California.

Sample Data Collection Guide

This resource from the Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI) at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) includes tools, templates, and evaluation basics begin assessing the impact of a SART on community responses to sexual assault. It was created with multidisciplinary team leadership and members in mind, so it does not include every step and detail of each evaluation method. Rather it is intended to spark interest in thinking about ways some of the examples provided can be picked up by teams and modified, to shape an evaluation process that fits that team’s specific needs.

Case File Review Guidebook

This toolkit is a step-by-step guide that leads SART Coordinators through the process of reviewing law enforcement case files. It is designed to help identify areas where a SART is successful in its response to victims, and other areas where it can improve. Information is provided for each of the core agencies in the SART: Law Enforcement, Medical, Prosecution, Advocacy, and Probation. The toolkit provides insights into how to make connections that help improve the criminal justice process for victims and agencies while also helping teams discover a multitude of opportunities and best practices to explore.

Multidisciplinary SARRT Video

Professionals in Alachua County, Florida created this multi-disciplinary video detailing the role of Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) members, including victim advocates, forensic medical examiners, investigators, and prosecutors. Team members share strategies from each disciplinary perspective on how to respond in a supportive, trauma-informed manner. The video was created by the Alachua County Communications Department.

The Urban Institute provides an extremely detailed guidance on SART Evaluation in their “Evaluation Guidebook for Projects Funded by the STOP Formula Grants Under the Violence Against Women Act.

For information about the law enforcement investigation of sexual assault, please see the Model Policy and corresponding Concepts and Issues Paper published (October, 2017) by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).  The IACP also created the Sexual Assault Response Policy and Training Content Guidelines (2015), which provide law enforcement with issues, procedures, and recommendations to consider when developing a policy related to sexual assault as well as accompanying training content. In 2019, the IACP released two resolutions regarding sexual assault investigations, including one stating that victims should not be asked to sign non-investigate or non-prosecution statements or waivers, and another one declaring that agencies should integrate victim services into their day to day operations.

This Training Bulletin addresses the question of whether or not evidence collected in association with a non-investigative report (often referred to as an anonymous report) should be submitted to the laboratory for analysis. In short, the answer is no.

Many professionals have questions about whether “evidence-based prosecution” should be used in cases of sexual assault. (Among criminal justice professionals, we often hear this concept referred to as “hostile prosecution.”) In the past, we have typically only seen this type of prosecution strategy used in domestic violence cases where the victim has recanted. In these situations, the prosecution sometimes moves forward with a case based only on the physical evidence and testimony of witnesses – but without the cooperation or testimony of the victim. This question was addressed in an article entitled, Best Practice or Buzzword: Sorting out Fact From Fiction in the Community Response to Violence Against Women by Joanne Archambault and Kim Lonsway. It originally appeared in the e-news for Sexual Assault Training & Investigations (SATI) on January 29, 2007.

In this Training Bulletin, prosecution expert Herb Tanner delves into questions that have been raised with the philosophy of Start by Believing, and other victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches. In particular, he addresses one specific manner of attack: Defense cross-examination aimed at exposing the law enforcement investigation of a sexual assault as biased.

This training bulletin addresses the question of whether participation of criminal justice professionals compromises the ability of police and prosecutors to remain objective, potentially opening them up to attacks by defense counsel and/or losing cases at trial.

Many professionals have questions about the laws in their state pertaining to medical mandated reporting for sexual assault. Answers can be found in the compilation of laws prepared in 2010 by the National District Attorneys Association. This 66-page document is entitled, Mandatory Reporting of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Statutes, and it includes any relevant laws for all U.S. states and territories.

A similar compilation was also completed in 2010 by AEquitas: The Prosecutors Resource on Violence Against Women. While it pertains exclusively to domestic violence, this will of course cover sexual assault that is perpetrated within the context of intimate partner violence. The document is entitled, “Reporting Requirements for Competent Adult Victims of Domestic Violence.

The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) has published a “State of the State Report” on Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Programs, based on the findings of a 2011 survey of SAFE program coordinators. It is an excellent example of a statewide assessment offering guidance to programs and policymakers alike.

This training module is written from a law enforcement perspective, providing information and guidance for first responders as well as investigators and even prosecutors. However, it is intended to be equally helpful for others whose work intersects with the criminal justice system, to ensure that people with disabilities who are victimized have equal access to information, programs, and services – and that they are treated with fairness, compassion, and respect.

This training bulletin offers recommendations for language that can improve our verbal and written communications as professionals in the field, helping us to provide information in ways that maximize our accuracy and clarity – and to avoid common tendencies that can create confusion, perpetuate misinformation, and contribute to a climate of doubt and victim blame.

The Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force (SATF) convened a Victim Notification Work Group to develop recommendations for how Oregon will approach survivor notification after processing untested Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) Kits. This excellent resource provides a definitions of terms for practitioners, detailed information on who, when, and how a survivor should be contacted, sample language practitioners can use when notifying survivors, and a sample letter to use when phone or in-person contacts have not been successful.

This training bulletin was developed to answer a question that is commonly asked by law enforcement investigators: Do I need to get a sworn statement from the victim at the conclusion of the interview? We argue that a sworn statement is not needed from a victim of sexual assault, because there is no clear advantage of the practice yet there are a number of very critical disadvantages.

The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) offers an online library that includes forms to be used as templates by community professionals seeking to create or adapt tools for their own medical forensic exams.

In Texas, evidence collected during a medical forensic exams of a victim who has not yet decided to participate in the criminal justice system is stored by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Sample documents that might be useful for other jurisdictions include instructions for packaging and mailing the evidence, and releasing it to law enforcement. Forms are also provided to submit evidence to the crime laboratory for storage (not analysis), bill the state agency for specific services, and release evidence to law enforcement. These documents can easily be adapted for use in other communities.

The Non-Reported Sexual Assault Evidence Program was created by the Texas Legislature in 2009. Evidence collected during a medical forensic examination of a victim who has not yet decided to participate in the criminal justice system is stored by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Sample documents that might be useful for other jurisdictions include instructions for packaging and mailing the evidence, and releasing it to law enforcement. Forms are also provided to submit evidence to the crime laboratory for storage (not analysis), bill the state agency for specific services, and release evidence to law enforcement. These documents can easily be adapted for use in other communities.

The Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Action Research Project (ARP) was created after it was discovered that a large volume of untested sexual assault kits were held in storage in Detroit. The ARP was created to to develop long-term strategies to decrease the volume of untested sexual assault kits in Detroit, Michigan. This multidisciplinary action research brought together researchers and practitioners from law enforcement, prosecution, forensic sciences, forensic nursing, and victim advocacy to address four primary goals. For more information on the findings, please see the full report entitled: Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Action Research Project (ARP), Final Report.

EVAWI Webinar: Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview: A Trauma Informed Experience

The Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) draws on the best practices of child forensic interviews, critical incident stress management, and neuroscience – combining them into a simple three-pronged approach that unlocks the trauma experience in a way that we can better understand. In this webinar, Mr. Strand discusses the history of victim interviews and the criminal justice system, the need for change, and an overview of the FETI methodology.

In this Training Bulletin, Prosecution Expert Herb Tanner begins with the basics of direct examination, examining the function of the basic direct in a sexual assault trial. Following that, he goes beyond the basic direct to explore how the investigating officer’s trauma-informed investigation lends weight to the victim’s testimony. Building on the first two parts, he then discusses the strategy of offering the investigating officer’s testimony as an expert witness. Finally, he explores the possibility of how robust an investigation can be when it is free, root and branch, from gender bias.

The Florida Council Against Sexual Violence created this introductory video for patrol officers on trauma-informed responses to sexual violence. This video reviews the importance of this type of response, with a basic overview of the effects of trauma and the key aspects of a trauma-informed response.

Threat Assessment in Stalking Cases is a webinar available from the Stalking Resource Center. It provides an overview of stalking, as well as a threat assessment tool which is widely used by law enforcement in the United Kingdom.

Many community protocols specify a certain timeline for how many hours after a sexual assault incident a medical forensic examination will be conducted. The timeline is commonly in the range of 72, 96, or 120 hours. While the longest of these (120 hours) can be used as a general guideline, best practice is for each sexual assault to be evaluated on a case by case basis. The question of whether or not to conduct an exam should be based on the facts of the case, the victim’s history, the likelihood of recovering evidence, and the types of evidence that will be needed for successful prosecution. This issue is discussed in detail in a Promising Practices article from the e-newsletter for Sexual Assault Training & Investigations (SATI)Inc. The article was also published in Sexual Assault ReportVolume 10Number 3, January/February 2007p 33-47.

The issue of timelines for evidence collection is also discussed in the A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations (2013) (adults/adolescents), published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Exam timelines are also discussed in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, entitled Care of the Adult Patient after Sexual Assault. It was written by Judith A. Linden and appeared in the September 2011 edition, Volume 365, Number 9, p. 834-841.

EVAWI offers a number of training bulletins on the Neurobiology of Trauma.

The Office for Victims of Crime offers their Victim Assistance Training Online (or VAT Online), which they describe as “a basic victim advocacy web-based training program that offers victim services providers and allied professionals the opportunity to acquire the basic skills and knowledge they need to better assist victims of crime. Specific information is also provided to meet the needs of target populations.”

The Advocacy Manual published by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault in 1999 offers a thorough description of the criminal justice system that can provide a useful overview for advocates in any state.

We also offer a training module in the OnLine Training Institute (OLTI) entitled, Interviewing the Victim: Techniques Based on the Realistic Dynamics of Sexual Assault. This module was written in 2007, and although we made some updates in 2013, we have not yet incorporated information on the neurobiology of sexual assault and the implications for conducting a trauma-informed interview. Nonetheless, we recommend this training module in the strongest possible terms, because it offers hundreds of pages with detailed information on topics such as:

  • Strategizing an interview approach based on case facts
  • Planning and preparing for heightened effectiveness and avoiding common pitfalls
  • Establishing rapport and a building relationship of trust with the victim
  • Gathering information to support a successful investigation and prosecution
  • Closing the interview and following up with the victim

For victims who have a disability, even more detailed guidance is provided in the training module on Successfully Investigating Sexual Assault Against Victims with Disabilities.

The Kansas Sexual Assault Kit (SAKI) Initiative developed helpful guidance that accompanies their Model Policy on Investigating Sexual Assault, to provide additional clarification on “unfounded” case coding. This document explicitly defines when cases should be coded as unfounded, and when they should not.

This training module is designed to help communities address the complex challenges of untested evidence in sexual assault cases. While the material is largely written with reference to cold cases, much of the guidance applies equally to current sexual assault cases and investigations that have been recently inactivated or suspended. Specific guidance is offered for notifying victims that their investigation has been re-opened, keeping victims informed of the status of their case, and providing ongoing victim support throughout the criminal justice process.

The Urban Institute published a research brief on evidence retention issues entitled VAWA 2005 and Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Exams: Kit Storage Issues in 2014. This brief is part of a full report, entitled Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Exams and VAWA 2005: Payment Practices, Successes, and Directions for the Future, which examines how states are meeting the goals of VAWA provisions regarding medical forensic examinations.

During this EVAWI webinar, presenters Diana Faugno, Rachell Ekroos, and Debra Holbrook discuss alternate light source (ALS) technology, negative invert filter software, and digital photo documentation as each relates to patients/victims who have been strangled or physically abused. These technologies can be used by medical professionals at the time of an exam or by law enforcement professionals with assaulted persons who do and do not seek medical treatment. In addition to physical injury visualization, ALS technology may be used to identify dried fluids (e.g. semen, blood, urine) and other evidence (e.g. fingerprints) that can be collected for forensic analysis. Without these technological tools many of the samples might otherwise go undetected under standard lighting.

For more information on the polygraph, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has published an excellent document entitled, “The Use of Truth-Telling Devices in Sexual Assault Investigations.” They also provide a list of individual state legislation regarding polygraph use.

A legal compilation is also available on polygraph testing of sexual assault victims from AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women. Please visit their website to request the most up to date compilation.

This article in Sexual Assault Report describes the implications of one important provision of VAWA 2005 that impacts how communities respond to sexual assault. Specificallyjurisdictions are now in danger of losing their eligibility for STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grants (commonly referred to as STOP Grant funds) if their policy or practice is to ask or require adult, youth or child victims of sexual assault to submit to a polygraph examination or other truth telling device as a condition for proceeding with the investigation of the crime. In addition, VAWA 2005 clarifies that the refusal of a victim to submit to such an examination must not prevent the investigation of the crime.

In an effort to identify both strengths and opportunities within their multidisciplinary response to sexual assault, practitioners in South Carolina developed this survey for health care providers across the state. Future surveys are now being developed for victim advocates, law enforcement officers, and other collaborative partners. The resulting report will be used to enhance the coordination of care, and other collaborative partners. The resulting report will be used to enhance the coordination of care, evidence collection, law enforcement investigations, judiciary outcomes, and victim assistance in South Carolina.

This training module is designed to explain the impact of sexual assault victimization on the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of victims. Increased understanding of this impact can improve victim responses, but the effects also have critical implications for a successful law enforcement investigation and prosecution of sexual assault.

We have posted a few examples of victim satisfaction surveys, to be adapted for use in your community. The first is from the San Diego County Sexual Assault Response Team, and it is designed for victims to evaluate the performance of various professionals (SART nurse, police officer/detective, and rape crisis advocate). The sample from the Coalition Against Sexual Assault in North Dakota is to evaluate patient satisfaction with health care providers, and the one from the Women’s Justice Center (in Santa Rosa, CA) is for the police response to victims of sexual assault – it is available in both English and Spanish.

Campus Climate Survey Validation Study (CCSVS), funded by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), funded by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)is a confidential, web-based survey that was administered in March 2015 to 23000 undergraduates (15000 women and 8000 men) attending a diverse sample of nine colleges and universities in the United States. The purpose of the CCSVS was to develop and test a survey instrument and methodology for efficiently collecting valid school-level data on campus climate and sexual victimization. The CCSVS instrument and methodology are examples for how to collect valid data on sexual victimization, which, in turn, can be used to inform the development and improvement of prevention efforts, service delivery, investigations, and related policies and practices.

Are We Making A Difference? is an interactive do-it-yourself guide to evaluation from the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. This tool provides an overview of how SARRT’s can conduct evaluation, as well as a few practice scenarios to identify ways you could approach measuring the changes your team has made. It will help SARRT teams assess if they are making true changes in the response at the local level.

One of the fundamental challenges to the credibility of sexual assault victims is that many – if not most – make statements to the law enforcement investigator or others that are incomplete, inconsistent, or just plain untrue. In this training bulletin, we explore the many causes of such problems and identify ways to overcome the challenges that they pose for a sexual assault investigation.

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) have created a website, Accessing Safety, specifically addressing the issue of violence against individuals with disabilities and Deaf individuals.

Detailed guidance for conducting forensic interviews with victims who have a disability can also be found in Victims with Disabilities: The Forensic Interview, a publication from the Office for Victims of Crime.

The Police Executive Research Forum offers a publication entitled, “Enhancing Success of Police-Based Diversion Programs for People with Mental Illness.”

In the webinar, Opening Doors: Alternative Reporting Options for Law Enforcement and VAWA Forensic Compliance, we explore a number of community models that have been implemented to improve victims’ access to the criminal justice and community response systems. Best practices are reviewed from across the country, and existing tools and resources are evaluated. With a focus on local implementation the goal is for participants to leave prepared to make recommendations for positive changes in their own communities.

Starting in 2013, the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland, Ohio) Sexual Assault Kit Task Force began investigating and prosecuting cases from approximately 5,000 previously unsubmitted SAKs from 1993 to 2009. In the Fall of 2014, a research team was given access to the SAK case files, and they coded a random sample of 243 sexual assaults case files with completed investigations that either resulted in prosecution or were not pursued due to insufficient evidence. The webinar, Unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits: Changing What We Know About Rape, details key findings from this research study and discuss how these findings are being used to inform and reform how sexual assaults are investigated and prosecuted.

This EVAWI training bulletin addresses the difficult question of when to conduct the interview of a sexual assault victim. In it, we argue that communities can go a long way toward improving our response to sexual assault by operating from the premise that we want victims to be involved in our response systems, so we should do whatever we reasonably can to help them do so. Sometimes we get so focused on our own policies and procedures that we forget to make accommodations that would encourage victims to participate, even if they entail some compromises that are less than ideal.

The You Have Options program (YHOP) provides victims with the option of reporting their sexual assault in a variety of ways, including “Information Only,” “Partial Investigation,” and “Complete Investigation.” In order to become certified as a YHOP agency, law enforcement agencies must commit to the 20 Elements of a Victim-Centered and Offender-Focused Response. However, agencies can also adopt individual elements of the YHOP program. By addressing the barriers victims face when reporting sexual assault, and increasing the number of sexual assault reports, the goal of YHOP is to provide investigators with information they would otherwise never have.