The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) provides funding to:
- Support multidisciplinary community response teams to inventory, track, and expeditiously test previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs).
- Collect and test lawfully owed DNA from offenders/arrestees.
- Produce necessary protocols and policies to improve collaboration and promote sustainable reform among laboratories, police, prosecutors, and victim service providers.
- Provide resources to address the cold case sexual assault investigations and prosecutions that result from evidence and Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) hits produced by tested SAKs.
- Optimize victim notification protocols and services.
SAKI also provides training and technical assistance (TTA). The TTA provider (RTI International) is charged with assisting jurisdictions in establishing sustainable change in practices, protocols, and policies as they relate to untested SAKs and sexual assault response. While each jurisdiction encounters unique challenges and circumstances, common issues are identified across all site grantees. BJA collaborated with the TTA provider to produce an online toolkit/guide to provide direction and a centralized source of evidence-based practices and relevant TTA resources that can be leveraged by all jurisdictions grappling with the challenge of not only untested SAKs, but downstream investigative/prosecutorial resources.
Why This Matters
SAKI is critical to enhancing the criminal justice response to sexual assault and ensuring justice for victims. SAKI funding will not only help link victims to advocates and needed services but will also help jurisdictions implement best practices and comprehensive reform to help bring people who commit sexual assault to justice and increase safety in communities by preventing future sexual assaults.
The impact of SAKI is being seen at the national, state, local, and tribal levels. People suspected of committing sexual assault are continually being identified and apprehended, victims are receiving long-awaited justice, and law enforcement agencies have the support and resources to improve their overall response to the crime of sexual assault.
Under SAKI, BJA is finding that a significant number of people who have committed multiple, violent sexual assaults are being linked to previously unsubmitted SAKs. Not only are those people committing sexual assaults, but they are frequently responsible for homicides and other violent offenses.
The initiative also represents a model program for eliminating backlogs of unsubmitted SAKs in law enforcement, while also creating long-term sustainability in state and local jurisdictions for addressing sexual assault and other violent crime.
SAKI has evolved since its inception in 2015 and is broken out into five different purpose areas. Each purpose area has its own focus:
Applicants must propose to implement a comprehensive approach to unsubmitted SAKs that includes all three elements of the BJA model. Funds may be requested to support other activities, as determined by the needs of the applicant’s jurisdiction. However, regardless of the proposed use of funds, applicants must describe how their project will include all three of the BJA model’s elements in their program plan.
Under Purpose Area 2, applicants are expected to achieve the overall goals of SAKI, but do not require extensive funding to support the three elements of the BJA model. Applicants seeking funding under Purpose Area 2 must demonstrate efforts to form or maintain a multidisciplinary approach to address SAK-related issues in their jurisdiction, establish partnerships where possible, ensure that the SAKI activities are effectively coordinated, and discuss how funding will help provide a sustainable solution to problems associated with unsubmitted SAKs in the jurisdiction. Priority will be given to rural and tribal law enforcement agencies (especially those who are not currently receiving assistance under an existing statewide or countywide SAKI grant held by another agency).
In accordance with applicable state law and for the purpose of resolving sexual assault cases associated with previously unsubmitted SAKs, Purpose Area 3 addresses the identification, collection, and DNA profiling of samples from convicted offenders who should have samples in CODIS, but from whom samples have never been collected or submitted to a lab for testing.
Purpose Area 4 is designed to support the investigation and prosecution of high volumes of sexual assault cases that have resulted from testing backlogs of previously unsubmitted SAKs. This funding is intended as enhancement funds for applicants that can clearly demonstrate their jurisdictions have previously addressed, or are currently effectively addressing, the major issues associated with unsubmitted SAKs. Additionally, this purpose area can fund investigators to interview and investigate people who have been convicted of sexual assault in order to gather information on additional offenses committed. Applicants do not have to be existing SAKI award recipients.
The goals in a holistic SAKI approach are implementing sustainable changes in procedures and policies to ensure that unsubmitted kits never accumulate again and ensuring that the overall response to sexually motivated crimes is enhanced to ensure timeliness and a victim-centered focus. As many SAKI grantees are near the completion of testing, investigating, and prosecuting their cases, this purpose area is designed for existing or previous SAKI grantees, which have addressed their unsubmitted kits and the downstream case activities for most of their cases, for one final SAKI project that is focused on sustainability.