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Victim Notification in Sexual Assault Cases with Unprocessed Kits An overview of what was done and what was learned from The 400 Project Debi Cain, Executive.

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Presentation on theme: "Victim Notification in Sexual Assault Cases with Unprocessed Kits An overview of what was done and what was learned from The 400 Project Debi Cain, Executive."— Presentation transcript:

1 Victim Notification in Sexual Assault Cases with Unprocessed Kits An overview of what was done and what was learned from The 400 Project Debi Cain, Executive Director, Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board; Lore Rogers, Staff Attorney, Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board; Herb Tanner, Violence Against Women Project Director, Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan Kimberly Hurst, Executive Director, Wayne County SAFE

2 Overview of 400 Project Over 10,000 sexual assault kits (“SAKs”) found in City of Detroit Police Crime Lab where status of testing and of associated cases unknown In early 2010, the 400 Project created to determine the scope of work and estimated cost of testing these kits

3 The Goals of The 400 Project 1. Testing of SAKs and data collection for analysis 2. Case recommendations to Wayne County Prosecutor 3. Provide victim advocacy services 4. Learn from process to help other communities

4 400 Project Process Team building Mission statement and guiding principles ◦ Multidisciplinary nature of team Team members didn’t know each other Need to accomplish a lot in one year Anticipation of potential conflicts as with any other multidisciplinary collaboration in this field

5 400 Project Mission Statement “To provide comprehensive, victim- centered, multi-disciplinary investigation and support services in response to the Detroit sexual assault cases represented by the 400 pilot sexual assault forensic exam kits.”

6 400 Project Guiding Principles Guiding Principle #1 Being victim-centered means acting in a way that promotes victim safety and empowerment, that respects victim autonomy and agency, and that provides victims with accurate information so that they can make informed decisions and choices whenever possible. Elaborative comments from team: “Victims need to know what to expect before they make their choices.” “Never lie to them.” “We may not know the answers to all their questions.”

7 400 Project Guiding Principles Guiding Principle #2 We will demonstrate mutual respect for our respective team members and their roles. Elaborative comments from team: “”Regular communication is key.” “We need to learn from and teach each other about our roles, work, tasks.”

8 400 Project Guiding Principles Guiding Principle #3 We will be supportive of victims’ decisions and choices and demonstrate non-judgmental understanding of those decisions/choices, even when we disagree and/or when we cannot work to bring about the outcome that the victim wants. Elaborative comments from team: “Victims need to be heard and validated.” “We need to listen to understand, not just hear.” “We need to recognize that we don’t know what has happened to the victim or how our work will affect them.”

9 400 Project Guiding Principles Guiding Principle #4 The focus of the investigations will be on the behavior of the offender pre-, post-, and during, the offense. Guiding Principle #5 We will remain up-to-date on best and promising practices in the area of sexual assault and on what victims of sexual assault need.

10 What we mean by “victim notification” ◦ How would initial contact with victim be made (the mechanism or mode of contact) ◦ When would initial contact be made ◦ Who would make the initial contact ◦ What information would be given to victims at initial contact(s) ◦ How would community based victim advocates be engaged in this process

11 400 Project Victim Notification ◦ As tackled the issue of victim notification, we looked at following:  Who should make the first contact – investigator? Advocate?  By phone? By letter? In person?  Before kit tested or after? Only if suspect identified?  Would advocate go with the investigator? ◦ Ultimately, developed a general protocol, but still evaluated on case-by-case basis

12 First Step: Locate Victim ◦ Process was more complicated than anticipated ◦ Public Records searches/Lexis-Nexis searches/Government Agencies-i.e. DHS ◦ Search warrant, carefully drafted and limited in scope, for medical records

13 Initial Victim Contact ◦ Investigator would make first contact, in person, and provide a letter introducing and offering advocacy services ◦ Investigator would notify advocates that had made contact, provide contact info to advocates for follow up ◦ Whether any victim accessed services was not disclosed by advocates without informed written signed consent

14 Initial Victim Contact ◦ Explanation of 400 Project, disclosure that perpetrator had been identified, was to be face- to-face whenever possible ◦ If the victim was in another state, Project enlisted local law enforcement and advocacy to handle notification in person ◦ No law enforcement contact with victims when there was no suspect identification

15 Victim Response To Investigator ◦ Varied greatly  I have dealt with it, leave me alone  Shock  Relief  Anger  Gratitude

16 Victim Responses After Initial Contact As Observed By Victim Advocates Victim advocates had contact with a significant number of victims over the course of the 400 Project Impressions of client responses based upon client interaction with advocacy services

17 Victim Responses Observed By Victim Advocates After notification by law enforcement, victims initially may have only wanted resources or advocacy services ◦ With some, this initial contact opened the door to longer term counseling down the road (after establishing a relationship with the victim) ◦ With others, notification would lead to an initial meeting with advocacy, but then contact quickly fell off - cancel appt, no show, etc

18 Victim Responses Observed By Victim Advocates Individual client responses to the notification were influenced by a multitude of variables. Stranger assault cases: common initial positive response of wanting to know "Who did this?!" and a desire to go forward with the case ◦ Most reported the incident to LE at the time of the incident and felt that they had conveyed to LE that they had wanted to go forward at that time

19 Victim Responses Observed By Victim Advocates "I don't want anything else except..." legal support through court accompaniment “I don't need you“ -- overall management of the interaction was handled independently or with family support Initial shock from the first notification sometimes resulted in immediate and final refusal of services

20 Victim Responses Observed Victim Advocates The gap in time between the initial assault and the notification by the 400 Project resulted in greater attitude of mistrust towards the system. ◦ Victims expressed lack of "faith" in process, expressed feelings of "Why now?" or "Counseling would have been nice when it happened.” ◦ Victims reported that they had no knowledge of resources for support at the time of assault

21 Additional Considerations Communities beginning to work on resolving unsubmitted SAKs should anticipate and decide what response will be when victim asks for information, e.g., when asks to see police report, or wants to know identity and location of suspect identified in a CODIS hit

22 Statistical Analysis of 400 Project Cases All SAKs in the project were tested Analysis done with overlay of “decision rules” created by Project that could influence which SAKs from 10,559 would be submitted, or the priority for submitting

23 Statistical Analysis of 400 Project Cases Important to understand stages of processing of SAKs and the “stop” points 1. Case status screening 2. Evidence screening 3. DNA testing 4. CODIS entry ◦ Forensic association ◦ Offender association

24 Statistical Analysis of 400 Project Cases Analysis predicts: Total number of SAKs from the 10,559 that will likely require lab analysis How many SAKs likely to each stage of processing

25 Statistical Analysis of 400 Project Cases Estimated that, of the 10,559 SAKs: 4250 SAKs will contain biological evidence to be tested for DNA 3669 of those SAKs will have a DNA profile developed for entry into CODIS 1241 of the DNA profiles will have a matching DNA profile ◦ 132 will be forensic associations ◦ 1109 will be associated with identified person

26 Case Outcomes from 400 Project Two cases already prosecuted by Wayne County Prosecutor One conviction at trial, one conviction by plea Nothing simple or uncomplicated about these successes – each one required extensive commitment of resources ◦ 1998 case, victim and witnesses had moved, some out of state

27 In Conclusion... Many thanks to the Office of Violence Against Women for its support of this project Questions? Contact Debi Cain,

28 Thank you! This webinar was supported by Grant No.2011-TA-AX-K048 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.


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