Last week, at the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, federal education officials went to work to raise awareness of and improve the response to sexual assault on college campuses. The focus of their efforts is to implement effective prevention and response strategies.
In a press release issued last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that, “every school would like to believe it is immune from sexual violence but the facts suggest otherwise…Our first goal is prevention through education. Information is always the best way to combat sexual violence. Our larger goal is to raise awareness to an issue that should have no place in society and especially in our schools.”
In an investigation in 2010, NPR found that, “colleges almost never expel men who are found responsible for sexual assault and that often, as a result, it is the victim who drops out of school.” While the Department of Education’s campaign doesn’t introduce new regulations to combat that problem, it aims to reinforce those that already exist, reminding schools that they have a responsibility to the 20 percent of college women who become victims of sexual assault on campus.
On Friday, April 8, the US Department of Justice announced the two recipients of an action research grant targeting untested rape kits. Houston, Texas and Wayne County, Michigan will be receiving $176,000 and $200,000, respectively to, “identify underlying reasons why sexual assault kit evidence is not tested and to develop practices to improve the criminal justice response to sexual assault.”
The funding, administered by the National Institute of Justice, a branch of the US Department of Justice, is the first of a two phase project. According to the press release:
In Phase I, for which this FY 2010 funding was awarded, researchers will team up with representatives from the police department, crime lab, prosecutor’s office and community-based victim services organizations in Wayne County and Houston. The teams will develop a strategy to tackle their problems, with special emphasis on how and when to notify victims when their SAK (which may be years old) is going to be tested.
In Phase II of the project, NIJ seeks to provide additional funds to help the two jurisdictions implement their strategies and evaluate their effectiveness. NIJ anticipates that these two projects will produce transportable lessons and strategies for other jurisdictions experiencing similar problems.
Joyful Heart is thrilled More >
In February, Women’s eNews ran a commentary by Wendy Murphy which argued that testing the backlog of rape kits– the evidence collected from victims’ bodies that is waiting to be tested in storage facilities across the United States–is a waste of resources and violates the privacy of victims.
Last month, former New York City chief sex crimes prosecutor, best-selling author and Joyful Heart board member Linda Fairstein wrote a brilliant rebuttal in response to Murphy’s piece published in The Daily Beast (a longer version was published on the Backlog Blog). Sarah Tofte pointed to Linda’s article as necessary reading on testing the rape kit backlog and offered some thoughts on Wendy’s article in an opinion piece that was featured on Women’s eNews this week.
Follow the link below to read it.
Our efforts to end the backlog of untested rape kits, the collection of evidence from victims’ bodies that wait to be tested in police and crime lab storage facilities throughout the country, are part of a larger movement to change the response to sexual violence in the United States–one that recognizes the importance of justice and healing and one that demonstrates to survivors that each and every one of their experiences and cases is important.
April 1 marked the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (#SAAM for our Twitter followers). You can read a message from Joyful Heart’s Executive Director, Maile Zambuto, on the Joyful Heart Blog here and read more about it it on our website.
At the beginning of every week here on the Backlog Blog, we are going to be sharing with you some statistics about the nature of sexual violence and the response to sexual violence. We start today with some commonly cited numbers many of you might already have seen.
With many states struggling to foot the bill to end backlogs of untested evidence including rape kits in crime labs, Wisconsin is poised to take steps to prevent bottlenecks from occurring in the future. The state, which was overwhelmed by testing needs for much of the last decade, seemed to have recently got its historic backlog under control, but it is unclear if a secondary backlog has developed.
However, with law enforcement officials submitting more and more DNA evidence to solve a wide range of crimes, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has asked for additional support. And despite the state’s much-publicized budget shortfall, Governor Scott Walker has agreed to fund additional staff at the labs to make sure the justice system does not end up with future backlogs.
Wisconsin’s ABC affiliate station said Gov. Walker has agreed to fund six more analysts at a cost of $770,000 over the next two years. The legislature, which has been fighting a contentious battle over the state’s $3.6 billion budget shortfall, will discuss the proposal in the coming months. The Governor said through a spokesperson that even as other government functions are cut, the state must address rising caseloads and provide “the funding for additional More >