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The Best Way Out is Always Through: Addressing the Problem of Untested Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs) through Multidisciplinary Collaboration

NCJ Number
Victims & Offenders Dated: 2019
Date Published

This longitudinal qualitative study followed one large urban community through a multi-year process of reviewing thousands of untested rape kits to identify empirically supported lessons learned for successful multidisciplinary collaboration in “cold case” sexual assaults.


In jurisdictions throughout the United States, law enforcement personnel have not been routinely submitting sexual assault kits (SAKs) for forensic DNA testing. The biological evidence in these kits may still be viable and actionable for police and prosecutors, so multiple federal programs have been created to promote rape kit testing, investigation, prosecution, and victim advocacy. The results of the current study show the importance of developing community champions and community quarterbacks to engage and sustain collaborative partners. The multidisciplinary action research team developed strategies for negotiating with both front-line staff and executives, advocating for sustainable staffing plans, changing policy and practice across all partner organizations, and codifying these changes in the face of constant upheaval. Implications for empirically supported training and technical assistance programs are discussed. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019