Attorney General Andy Beshear today released a set of re to support Kentucky’s law enforcement community in investigating and prosecuting the results of sexual assault forensic exam kits.
The law enforcement tool kit is another step the Office of the Attorney General is taking to help sexual assault victims receive justice.
Beshear’s office has been partnering with lawmakers, law enforcement and advocates to end Kentucky’s Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence kit or SAFE kit backlog since the spring when Senate Bill 63 was passed that directed the 3,000-plus untested kits to be tested.
The tool kit includes resources for law enforcement on managing sexual assault kits; pre- planning of investigations while kits are being tested; reviewing DNA results once kits are returned; preparing for pre-victim notifications; and notifying and interviewing victims.
The tool kit also includes a statutory guide of the SAFE Act of 2016.
“We want to ensure that everyone working to end this backlog has the resources and support they need to seek and get justice for these victims,” Beshear said. “Kits have been returned to law enforcement in Lexington and Louisville, and we expect the results of other kits to begin arriving in police departments across the state. As law enforcement agencies pursue these cases, we are hopeful that our recommended guidelines will aid them in their victim-centered investigations.”
Beshear committed $4.5 million in settlement funds from a lawsuit his office settled to test SAFE kits, and provided an additional $1 million to support the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases.
“Since the beginning of this initiative, the law enforcement, prosecution and advocacy communities have collaborated and spent a great deal of time planning for the most victim-centered approach to handling these backlog cases, as well as generating ideas to improve the handling of sexual assault cases in general,” said Kristi Gray, Jefferson County assistant commonwealth attorney. “It is apparent that there is a strong commitment to providing the best possible services to these victims, keeping our communities safe, and holding these offenders accountable. A great deal of input was provided by the various agencies, and the collaboration made it possible for everyone to recognize the challenges in handling these cases. The toolkit that has been developed is a result of that collaboration, and it was developed with these unique challenges in mind. The recommendations and best practices that are the focus of this toolkit will provide valuable training information and resources, and will help agencies to address these challenges.”
“It took almost two decades for my serial rapist to match my kit, which was the DNA from my body and my crime scene,” said survivor Michelle Kuiper. “It should never take that long to free a survivor from the injustices of that crime they had to endure at the hands of a rapist. Ending the backlog of thousands of untested sexual assault forensic exam kits across Kentucky is essential. The SAFE kit backlog represents a systemic failure that didn’t take sexual assault seriously. Testing these SAFE kits, solving open cases, identifying serial rapists and offering survivors a path to healing and justice is the least that should be done for these survivors who went through an intrusive exam, all in the hopes of receiving justice. One kit is one person far too many that is waiting for justice.”
In September, Beshear’s office hosted the SAFE Summit in partnership with the Sexual Assault Response Team Advisory Committee to train nearly 200 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and victim advocates on how to conduct a victim-centered investigation, examine cold cases, notify victims and prosecute sexual assault offenders.
To ensure SAFE kit investigations and prosecutions are victim-centered, Beshear’s Office of Victim Advocacy and his Department of Criminal Investigations are working with the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs and its 13 rape crisis centers, the Kentucky State Police and local law enforcement and prosecutors.
“Kentucky’s network of regional rape crisis centers have been trained on the notification protocol and are committed to assisting law enforcement agencies across the state inform and follow up with victims who are receiving information about the results of their backlogged kits. no matter how long the search for justice takes,” said Eileen Recktenwald, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs.