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Police Foundation to Lead Review of Comprehensive Testing of Sexual Assault Kits in Texas

The Police Foundation has been selected by the Communities Foundation of Texas to lead an examination and review of the impact of Texas laws requiring law enforcement agencies to test all sexual assault kits and requiring hospitals to have trained certified staff available to collect sexual assault forensic samples.

A law authored by former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis in 2011 required Texas law enforcement agencies to determine how many sexual assault kits had not been processed, and to submit any involved with “an active criminal case” for testing by April 1, 2012. Another recent Texas law requires all hospitals to have trained certified staff available to collect forensic sexual assault evidence for sexual assault kits.

The combination of the increased public attention to testing sexual assault kits with the new Texas laws requiring statewide backlog clearance provides an opportunity to examine and review the effect on whether more possible victims will report sexual assaults, and the staffing increases and other demands that these requirements place on the agencies involved. The Police Foundation report is designed to provide scientific evidence on these results.

The project’s objective is to determine whether the new laws are increasing the rates of reporting of sexual assault cases, and whether the rates of arrests, prosecutions and convictions have increased. The Police Foundation will assess the impact of the laws statewide and in several local jurisdictions including Arlington, Dallas, Austin, and Fort Worth.

In addition to examining whether the new laws have impacted the reporting and resolution of sexual assault cases, the project will review whether they have strained resources in the four agencies in order to deal with the increased caseload. It will also survey investigators, prosecutors, victim, advocates, and hospital administrators to see if the new state emphasis has led to changes in how sexual assault evidence is collected and analyzed.

“The recent Texas laws requiring the testing of all sexual assault kits collected by trained medical staff convey a clear message that sexual assault complaints will be fully investigated by the Texas criminal justice system,” said Rob Davis, Senior Social Scientist for the Police Foundation and the lead researcher on the project. “The laws should encourage more victims to come forward, knowing that their stories will be taken seriously and that their actions will result in the apprehension and conviction of perpetrators of sexual assault, whether they be first-time offenders or serial rapists.”

Funding for comprehensive testing of sexual assault kits is prominent on the national stage. In March, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice in March announced a Sexual Assault Kit Initiative and proposed providing $41 million to agencies around the nation to deal with a SAK backlog estimated to be several hundred thousand. The National Institute of Justice has already funded pilot projects to deal with the backlog in four cities, including Houston in Texas. The Police Foundation study will utilize lessons learned from the Houston pilot as a foundation for research in the new jurisdictions.

The Police Foundation will be supported in this project by the National Center for Victims of Crime, a non-profit organization that advocates for victims’ rights, provides training and serves as a source of information on victims’ issues; and The Joyful Heart Foundation, a leading advocacy organizations working toward nationwide rape kit reform and ending the untested rape kit backlog.

The project will provide reports to the Communities Foundation of Texas on the effects of the laws on police agencies and on hospitals. A website has been proposed to share the findings with the public and interested agencies nationwide.

The Police Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that for nearly 45 years has been at the cutting-edge of research into the most effective and efficient policing practices, as well as providing the understanding of that research to departments and agencies across the nation.

As the largest community foundation in Texas and one of the largest in the nation, Communities Foundation of Texas works with families, companies and nonprofits to strengthen our community through a variety of charitable funds and strategic grant making initiatives. The foundation professionally manages more than 900 charitable funds and has awarded more than $1.4 billion in grants since its founding in 1953.


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