Joyful Heart Presents on Victim Notification at the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference

At this year's National Sexual Assault Conference, advocates, police officers, members of the military and healers came together to talk about ending sexual violence and caring for survivors. Hosted by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault in Los Angeles, the Conference drew 1,400 service providers from across the nation.

To offer these healers a respite from the heavy topics they discussed, Joyful Heart's Healing & Wellness team provided a Wellness Room. The quiet room—with serene music, art supplies, journals, comfy places to sit and chair massages—was a haven where conference participants could take a break from their scheduled workshops to have a massage, read, draw, journal, meditate or just enjoy a peaceful space.

Joyful Heart also presented a workshop on our research on victim notification and the rape kit backlog. The Policy & Advocacy team and our research partner Dr. Courtney Ahrens, Professor of Psychology at Cal State Long Beach, defined victim notification and current practices across the country. Dr. Ahrens walked the audience through the many decisions jurisdictions face when notifying survivors that their rape kits were part of a backlog. They were joined by a panel of experts who have direct experience with notification: Detective James Blocker of the LA Police Department (LAPD), Robert Taylor, Assistant Director of the LA Sheriff's Department (LASD) Crime Lab, and Anne Kinetra, an investigator with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

The panelists spoke about how their jurisdictions conduct notifications and how they have adapted their practices over time. The LAPD and LASD send letters to survivors whose kits were part of the backlog after their kits are tested, and the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office conducts in-person notifications.

The panelists described lessons they learned in delivering notifications and offered their recommendations for jurisdictions currently struggling with victim notification. A common theme was the need for collaboration across disciplines, including law enforcement, prosecutors, crime labs and advocates.

Audience members asked great questions, including whether all rape kits should be tested and how notifiers respond when survivors do not wish to speak with them. Our panelists agreed about the value in testing rape kits and respecting survivors' decisions about moving forward in the criminal justice process. Audience members also talked about notification in their home cities.

Whether in the Wellness Room or during our presentation, we are so honored and grateful to work with the fearless and caring individuals in our field. They strive everyday to raise awareness, change attitudes and bring healing to survivors.

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