Best Practice Resources

Best Practice Resources

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EVAWI offers an Online Training Institute (OLTI) module entitled, The Earthquake in Sexual Assault Response: Implementing VAWA Forensic Compliance. It is designed to increase understanding of the forensic compliance provisions in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which require that sexual assault victims be provided a medical forensic examination: (a) free of charge, and (b) regardless of whether they report to law enforcement or participate in the criminal justice process. This module also provides extensive resources and tools to assist local communities in their implementation efforts.

A related OLTI module is titled Opening Doors: Alternative Reporting Options for Sexual Assault Victims. This module begins by defining key concepts, including VAWA forensic compliance, and then explores policy and practice considerations for community implementation. Ultimately, victims who have more ways to access information and support, to receive physical and psychological care, and to preserve the viability of a criminal justice intervention, will have more opportunities to successfully participate in the criminal justice process if and when they choose to do.

EVAWI also offers a webinar titled, Opening Doors: Alternative Reporting Options for Law Enforcement and VAWA Forensic Compliance. In it, 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.

Yet another EVAWI webinar is entitled Forensic Compliance in 2012 which explores key concepts and discusses common challenges for developing protocols in areas such as: the initial response to a sexual assault disclosure, payment for the medical forensic examination, mandatory reporting to law enforcement, storage and transportation of evidence, case tracking and retrieval, processing of evidence, and the potential for evidence-based prosecution (i.e., without the victim’s cooperation).

EVAWI’s training bulletin, Frequently Asked Questions on VAWA 2013, reviews the forensic compliance provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with specific emphasis on new issues raised in the 2013 reauthorization of VAWA. States and territories were required to certify compliance with VAWA 2013 by March 2016. For more information, please visit our Forensic Compliance Background Page.

For communities seeking to evaluate their implementation of forensic compliance, one place to start is the self-assessment tool developed by EVAWI. Successfully completing this tool will require the participation of professionals from a range of disciplines involved in the criminal justice and community response to sexual assault: law enforcement, health care providers, victim advocates, prosecutors, crime lab personnel, victim-witness assistance professionals, and others. The tool is posted in Word, so it can be easily utilized by community professionals.

The Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI) at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) published the Minnesota Model Policies for Forensic Compliance (2011) which identifies ten decision points to guide local policy development. They also created an assessment survey to identify practice around the state, a Forensic Compliance Quiz for professionals, and a special section of their website on medical forensic compliance with additional tools and resources.

A statewide work group was convened by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (COCCP) in close partnership with the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), to develop the Maryland Forensic Compliance Guidelines. These guidelines are a suggested framework for a sexual assault response protocol that is compliant with the 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

For communities seeking to evaluate their implementation of forensic compliance, one place to start is the self-assessment tool developed by EVAWI. Completing this tool will require participation of professionals from a range of disciplines involved in the criminal justice and community response to sexual assault: law enforcement, health care providers, victim advocates, prosecutors, crime lab personnel, victim-witness assistance professionals, and others. The tool is posted in Word, so it can be easily utilized by community professionals.

For an example of a statewide evaluation, see Forensic Compliance in Colorado: An Examination of System Response to Sexual Assault. This report was produced collaboratively by the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) and the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. Released in 2013, findings are based on an analysis of 151 “medical reporting cases” (cases where a medical forensic exam was conducted without law enforcement involvement) and survey responses from 239 multidisciplinary professionals. Findings clearly demonstrated progress in the statewide implementation of forensic compliance, but also some gaps.

A second statewide evaluation was published in 2011, entitled Non-Report Sexual Assault Evidence Program: Forging New Victim-Centered Practices in Texas. To produce this report, researchers in the University of Texas School of Social Work conducted hundreds of in-depth interviews and web-based surveys with Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), medical personnel, rape crisis center advocates, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and state agency personnel. Results suggest that the “non-report program” has been successful, yet challenges remain.

In an effort to identify strengths and opportunities within their multidisciplinary response to sexual assault, practitioners in South Carolina developed a survey for health care providers across the state. The survey includes a focus on forensic compliance implementation questions. Results are intended to enhance the coordination of care, evidence collection, law enforcement investigations, judiciary outcomes, and victim assistance in South Carolina.

The US Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions on STOP Formula Grants, including issues pertaining to the forensic compliance provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). These issues are primarily addressed on pages 1-25. The document was updated in February 2014, so it pertains to the 2013 reauthorization of VAWA (VAWA 2013).

Additional FAQ documents have been developed within several states. For example, the Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI) at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) offers a special section of their website on medical forensic compliance, with information designed to address Frequently Asked Questions pertaining to how this issue is addressed in Minnesota. 

The California Office of Emergency Services (formerly Cal EMA) also published an Informational Bulletin to address several Frequently Asked Questions related to the California law addressing forensic compliance implementation (SB 534).

Similarly, a Memorandum of Law was prepared by the Sexual Assault Legal Institute within the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), to address Frequently Asked Questions regarding VAWA forensic compliance.

Finally, the Virginia Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and the Virginia Chapter of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) produced Virginia’s Healthcare Response to Sexual Assault: Guidelines for the Acute Care of Adult and Post-Pubertal Adolescent Sexual Assault Patients. Among other topics, the document addresses Frequently Asked Questions regarding authorization and payment for sexual assault medical forensic examinations, and also evidence kits, which are known as Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERKs) in Virginia. These issues intersect with the implementation of forensic compliance in complex ways.

EVAWI offers Explore Your Options, where survivors and their support people can gather detailed information about health care, victim advocates, medical forensic exams, and reporting to law enforcement. This includes notification that survivors can obtain a medical forensic examination free of charge, and regardless of whether they participate in the criminal justice process – consistent with the forensic compliance provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

EVAWI has also developed a sample press release, to announce the availability of medical forensic exams for sexual assault victims without first talking with law enforcement. As with many of our other resources, we offer two versions: one for states with medical mandating reporting for sexual assault of competent adults – and one for states without such a mandated reporting requirement. These templates can be used as a starting place, filling in highlighted areas with local information, including the names of specific agencies and people, the term your community has selected to refer to these exams, and the details regarding your mandated reporting requirements. We also provide an article in a small local newspaper based on an earlier version of the press release used in San Luis Obispo, California.

Colorado created a brochure and website to provide information for survivors and support people on the three options for reporting sexual assault to law enforcement: Law Enforcement Report, Medical Report, and Anonymous Report. Consistent with VAWA forensic compliance, a Medical Report allow victims to have evidence collected from a medical forensic exam provided to law enforcement with their name and contact information. They can then decide whether this evidence will be submitted to the laboratory for testing. The term Anonymous Report is used when the victim chooses to have evidence from an exam provided to law enforcement without their name or contact information. This evidence will not be submitted to the laboratory for testing.

New Hampshire created an informational brochure for sexual assault survivors on their options and rights, including What Happens at the Hospital, What Can the Crisis Center Offer, What Happens if You Report to Law Enforcement, What Does the Criminal Justice Process Look Like, and What if You Report on Campus. In the section on medical forensic examinations, the brochure notes that “you may opt to have evidence collected, and to remain anonymous to law enforcement” (consistent with VAWA forensic compliance). The brochure also covers Safety Planning, Crime Victims’ Rights, and Tips for Family and Friends, then concludes with a list of resources by county and information about the Victims’ Compensation program in New Hampshire.

The San Francisco Police Department offers an example of public outreach designed to educate victims of their right to a medical forensic examination regardless of their decision about participating in the criminal justice process. On their website, they provide answers to a number of Frequently Asked Questions about Sexual Assault.

In Ohio, the statewide Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Program ensures that medical forensic exams are available to all victims of sexual assault, regardless of whether they are able to pay and whether they decide to report to law enforcement (consistent with VAWA forensic compliance provisions). The program pays for the cost of a medical forensic exam and the antibiotic prophylaxis to prevent sexually transmitted infections. The program reimburses medical facilities directly in the hopes of reducing the burden of dealing with billing issues for survivors of sexual assault.

One example of a rather comprehensive law addressing payment for sexual assault medical forensic exams (SAFEs) is found in Connecticut. While many specific aspects of forensic compliance are covered in the statute, it also references Technical Guidelines that provide more detailed information to guide the process of implementation. The law also explicitly states that these guidelines will be updated “from time to time” and that they “will be incorporated in regulations adopted in accordance with” the statute. This approach reflects an attempt to balance general guidance provided in state statute – with more detailed information provided in the technical guidelines that can be used to direct practical implementation.

Another example of a rather comprehensive law addressing forensic compliance is Illinois. The statute provides detailed information regarding a wide range of issues, yet is clear and concise. For example, the procedure for payment is outlined in a straightforward way to make it easier for practitioners to follow.

A third example is Maine’s law, which enacts the recommendations of a commission specifically tasked with designing a process for sexual assault medical forensic exams. Key provisions outline the payment process and protections for victim privacy, as well as evidence collection and storage procedures when the victim has and has not yet decided to participate in the criminal justice process.

The Non-Report Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (NRSAFE) Program was created by HB 2626 in 2009. It is described on the website for the Texas Department of Public Safety, which stores the evidence for victims who have an exam but have not yet decided to participate in the criminal justice process. The evidence is stored for a period of two years, and then destroyed. The website also provides a number of instructional documents and forms, which are provided on the Non-Reported Sexual Assault Evidence Program page of the agency’s website. A more recent addition to the Texas law (HB 2966) enhances confidentiality protections for victims.

Although not law, Virginia has an Executive Order (92) directing the state crime laboratory to accept and store physical evidence that is collected from health care providers in cases of sexual assault, for victims who have not yet decided to participate in the criminal justice system. The state crime laboratory has also developed instructions and consent form for evidence storage in these cases.

EVAWI offers an Online Training Institute (OLTI) module entitled Opening Doors: Alternative Reporting Options for Sexual Assault Victims. After defining key concepts, this module examines policy and practice considerations for communities seeking to implement such options. Ultimately, victims who have more ways to access information and support, to receive physical and psychological care, and to preserve the viability of a criminal justice intervention, will have more opportunities to successfully participate in the criminal justice process if and when they choose to do.

EVAWI also offers a webinar titled, Opening Doors: Alternative Reporting Options for Law Enforcement and VAWA Forensic Compliance. In it, 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.

An additional EVAWI webinar focuses on Alternative Reporting Options for Sexual Assault: An Overview of the You Have Options Program. As described in this webinar, the YHOP program offers sexual assault victims a variety of reporting options, including “Information Only,” “Partial Investigation,” and “Complete Investigation.” To become certified by YHOP, law enforcement agencies must commit to the program’s “20 Elements of a Victim-Centered and Offender-Focused Response.” However, agencies can also adopt individual elements of the YHOP program without certification. In this webinar, discussion focuses on the “20 Elements” and the implementation process for law enforcement agencies.

EVAWI also offers a training bulletin entitled, Should We ‘Test Anonymous Kits?’ which addresses the question of whether or not evidence collected in association with a non-investigative report should be submitted to the laboratory for analysis. In short, the answer is no. The bulletin goes on to explain the rationale for this answer.

EVAWI offers a webinar on Investigating and Prosecuting ‘Converted’ Cases. The term “converted case” is used when 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 addresses frequently asked questions such as: “What should we call these cases?” “How are they viewed?” “How should they be investigated?” “How do we overcome challenges for prosecution?”

Procedures for anonymous (and non-investigative) reporting are outlined in two New Hampshire documents: the statewide protocol for medical forensic examinations and the state protocol for Sexual Assault Resource Teams (SARTs). In New Hampshire, anonymous reporting is available to patients 18 years or older who have a medical forensic exam (and do not have certain types of injuries). A unique serial number is assigned to the evidence, in place of the victim’s name. The evidence is then stored by law enforcement agency with jurisdiction; the recommended period in the protocol is the statute of limitations or 20 years. No investigation or testing is conducted with the evidence, unless the victim contacts the law enforcement agency to initiate participation in the investigative process.

Modeled after the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, the Colorado Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Protocol is designed to assist health care providers with the consistent and complete collection of the sexual assault evidence collection kit. It incorporates Colorado’s three options for reporting: Law Enforcement Report, Medical Report, and Anonymous Report (these options are not available to minors or at-risk elders). A Law Enforcement Report is a standard report, meaning the victim chooses to report the assault to law enforcement, and provides their name and contact information. The term Medical Report is used when the victim chooses to have evidence from a medical forensic exam provided to law enforcement with their name and contact information. They can then decide whether this evidence will be submitted to the laboratory for testing. The term Anonymous Report is used when the victim chooses to have evidence from an exam provided to law enforcement without their name or contact information. This evidence will not be submitted to the laboratory for testing. The protocol also includes consent forms for victims to choose one of these three reporting options and document their consent to the medical forensic exam and/or testing evidence/release of results.

The intent of the Nebraska Medical Sexual Assault Protocol is to assist medical providers with statewide best practice standards for medical forensic examinations. In addition to full law enforcement reporting, the protocol outlines procedures for a Partial Report with Evidence Collection (where evidence from the medical forensic exam is submitted to the laboratory for DNA testing, and any foreign DNA profiles potentially uploaded into CODIS) and Anonymous Reporting (where evidence is stored by law enforcement for 20 years, and no testing/investigation conducted unless the victim converts to full participating by contacting the agency).

The Ohio Protocol for Sexual Assault Forensic and Medical Examination is also based on the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, to help ensure comprehensive care of sexual assault patients. The protocol also includes an option for anonymous reporting. Adult patients can decide whether or not to speak with law enforcement, and if not, the hospital or exam facility will provide only the date and general assault location to law enforcement, not the patient’s name, address, or other identifying information. Included in the protocol are the General Consent Form, Consent Form for Anonymous Evidence Collection, and a Model for Developing a Sexual Assault Community Protocol.

Cambria County, Pennsylvania created a Sexual Assault Protocol that includes procedures for anonymous reporting (for victims age 18 and over). The document also includes a consent form for victims to authorize the collection, documentation, and release of evidence stored by the municipal police department. The form also includes a brief explanation of key concepts for victims, including the fact that they will not be billed for the exam, that their medical records will remain private, and that their evidence will be stored for 2 years. Victims can choose whether or not they would like to be contacted 3 weeks before the evidence will be destroyed. If so, the form documents their preferences and various methods of contacting them.

EVAWI offers Explore Your Options, where survivors and their support people can gather detailed information about health care, victim advocates, medical forensic exams, and reporting to law enforcement. This includes notification that survivors can obtain a medical forensic examination free of charge, and regardless of whether they participate in the criminal justice process. Topics also include options available for sexual assault survivors on campus, in the workplace, or in the US military.

Commerce City Police Department in Colorado offers detailed information for survivors and support people on how to report a sexual assault using the phone, an online reporting phone, or in-person through the You Have Options Program. The information is written in a warm, reassuring tone that provides concrete instructions and addresses immediate concerns survivors are likely to have.

Colorado created a brochure and website, to provide information for survivors and support people on the three options for reporting sexual assault to law enforcement: Law Enforcement Report, Medical Report, and Anonymous Report. A Law Enforcement Report is a standard report, meaning the victim chooses to report the assault to law enforcement, and provides their name and contact information. The term Medical Report is used when the victim chooses to have evidence from a medical forensic exam provided to law enforcement with their name and contact information. They can then decide whether this evidence will be submitted to the laboratory for testing. The term Anonymous Report is used when the victim chooses to have evidence from an exam provided to law enforcement without their name or contact information. This evidence will not be submitted to the laboratory for testing.

The Austin Texas Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team (SARRT) created a Public Service Announcement to encourage sexual assault reporting, by communicating the message that every effort will be made to treat victims compassionately and handle their cases professionally. The Sex Crimes Unit of the Austin Police Department was also featured in an article in a local Spanish-language newspaper, to direct outreach at this underserved segment of the community.

In January 2017, the US 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. It also offers background, guidance, and context for this complex and challenging issue.

EVAWI also offers a training bulletin entitled, Should We ‘Test Anonymous Kits?’ which addresses the question of whether or not evidence collected in association with a non-investigative report should be submitted to the laboratory for analysis. In short, the answer is no. The bulletin goes on to explain the rationale for this answer.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Victim Preference Statement describes various reporting options for victims, explains their limitations, records the victim’s decisions regarding reporting and participation, and documents the involvement of an advocate or other advisor in the process. A second example of a Victim Preference Statement appears in the SAPR Toolkit. It provides information for victims about their options and documents their reporting selection.

Sample Forms are also available to document victim consent to release evidence from a medical forensic exam to law enforcement, when they convert from an alternative reporting option to participation in the investigative process. Examples, come from (1) the Texas Department of Public Safety, (2) the Trauma Recovery Center at the University of California San Francisco.

Two states have developed instructional materials to provide guidance for mailing evidence to the state crime laboratory when a forensic examination is conducted without a report to law enforcement: the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. The Virginia instructions include photographs to illustrate the process, as well as a consent form for sexual assault victims to sign documenting their understanding of the process. Procedures for mailing evidence are a standard practice for many law enforcement agencies; these materials address the specific context when evidence is mailed by health care providers rather than law enforcement investigators.

Commerce City Police Department in Colorado offers online reporting of sexual assault through the You Have Options Program. The program provides information for survivors and support people written in a warm, reassuring tone that provides concrete instructions and addresses immediate concerns survivors are likely to have.

Our VOICE advocacy program in Asheville, North Carolina, collaboratively developed a program for online reporting with the Asheville Police Department and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. An online form is 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 option. Our VOICE staff reviews all of the reports, and submits them to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

The You Have Options Program (YHOP) offers sexual assault victims a variety of reporting options, as described in an EVAWI webinar entitled Alternative Reporting Options for Sexual Assault: An Overview of the You Have Options Program. These options include “Information Only” reporting “Partial Investigation,” and “Complete Investigation.” To become certified by YHOP, law enforcement agencies must commit to the program’s “20 Elements of a Victim-Centered and Offender-Focused Response.” However, agencies can also adopt individual elements of the YHOP program without certification. In this webinar, discussion focuses on the “20 Elements” and the implementation process for law enforcement agencies.

Commerce City Police Department in Colorado has adopted the You Have Options Program, offering information for survivors and support people on how to report a sexual assault using the phone, an online reporting phone, or in-person. The information is written in a warm, reassuring tone that provides concrete instructions and addresses immediate concerns survivors are likely to have.

EVAWI offers two Online Training Institute (OLTI) modules on victim advocacy. Both provide similar content, but one offers detailed guidance for advocates themselves, while the other is written in a more generalized way for other professionals to better understand the advocacy role:

Effective Victim Advocacy Within the Criminal Justice System offers detailed guidance on the role of community-based and system-based victim advocates, particularly focused on the role of advocates in relation to the criminal justice system. Although the content is relevant for any professional involved in responding to sexual assault victims, this module is written primarily for advocates themselves.

Breaking Barriers: The Role of Community-Based and System-Based Victim Advocates is also relevant for any professional involved in responding to sexual assault, but written in a more generalized way for other professionals, not advocates themselves, to better understand this role.

EVAWI also offers a training bulletin entitled Advocates and Law Enforcement: Oil and Water, which explores the tension sometimes experienced between these two professional disciplines. The training bulletin begins by offering a detailed description of the advocate’s role during the criminal justice process. It then goes on to address the common reluctance of law enforcement to involve advocates in this process, by exploring some causal factors and outlining strategies to resolve them. 

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) offers guidance for advocates and agencies who work with survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Two resources address common questions on confidentiality and release of information: Technology & Confidentiality Resources Toolkit and Frequently Asked Questions on Survivor Confidentiality Releases.

The National Crime Victim Law Institute also has a publication on confidentiality titled: Confidentiality and Sexual Violence Survivors: A Toolkit for State Coalitions.

The US Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) hosts Victim Assistance Training Online (VAT Online), a web-based training program that helps victim services providers and allied professionals to acquire the basic skills and knowledge they need to better assist victims of crime.

In 1999, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (now ValurUS) published an Advocacy Manual which includes a thorough description of the criminal justice system. While the manual is now more than 20 years old, it has been updated and still provides valuable and relevant information to assist victim advocates.

In 2019, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) released a resolution declaring that law enforcement agencies should integrate victim services into their day-to-day operations so crime victims have immediate access to professionals who understand the complexities of trauma and victim needs. It is titled, The Importance of Law Enforcement-Based Victim Services in the United States.

AEquitas offers a Strategies in Brief Issue (#17, March 2013) summarizing state laws addressing the presence of a victim advocate during a medical forensic examination. It is titled, Presence of Victim Advocate During Sexual Assault Exam: Summary of State Laws.

EVAWI offers a 2-part series of training bulletins: Notification of Advocates and HIPAA Protections and More on Advocates, Routine Notification, and HIPAA examining the question of whether routine notification of advocates violates the privacy protections outlined in HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). In short, the answer is no: routine notification of victim advocates does not violate HIPAA, but there are issues worth considering.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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 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.

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, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

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.

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 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.