This report provides research results about Houston's victim notification process. In Houston, victim notification involves reestablishing contact with victims whose cases are reopened for investigation as a result of a match in the law enforcement database Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), from
victims’ recently tested sexual assault kits (SAKs).This action research assesses the implementation of the Complainant Notification and Hotline Protocols
by interviewing a small number of victims about their experience with notification by Houston Police Department investigators and the justice advocate, an advocate for victims.
 
The data analysis revealed multiple themes from victims’ notification experience, including:
  • Victims appreciated having more choice/control.
  • The time lapse had an important effect on their experience of moving on from the assault.
  • Several victims were trying to make meaning of their experience.
  • Deciding about whether to participate in their case going forward created a moral dilemma for some victims.
  • Victims faced many barriers in their current lives.
  • The notification process created both danger and opportunity for victims.
  • The uncertainty about the case outcome weighed heavily upon victims.

Additional reports from this research project can be found at: www.houstonsakresearch.org.

This report includes research on creating victim notification protocols.  Six major themes emerged from survey respondents regarding the process of developing and implementing the Protocols. They include: 1)Strategic planning, 2) Organizational support, 3) Active partnerships, 4) Resources, 5) Outreach, and 6)Victim-centered approach. Of the six themes, researchers identified the victim-centered approach as significant to the process of developing and implementing victim notification protocols.

Additional reports from this research project can be found at: www.houstonsakresearch.org.

This report describes research on victim and professional perspectives on the delivery of victim notification procedures, implementation of new victim notification processes, victim engagement within the criminal justice system, and recommendations for improvements.

Victims and professionals made five recommendations.

  • Law enforcement should not assume that a victim does or does not want to be notified.
  • All victims should be given the opportunity to be notified, and the decision for notification should be a choice provided to all victims instead of something imposed on them by someone else.
  • Mechanisms for notification should be flexible and thoughtful and incorporate choices for victims.
  • Victims should have a choice in whether their case moves forward based on DNA testing.
  • Resources and support are imperative to the notification process.

Additional reports from this research project can be found at: www.houstonsakresearch.org.

A new report describes findings about unsubmitted sexual assault kits in Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan. A multidisciplinary team investigated the situation and found a number of effective and sustainable responses and ways to prevent the problem from recurring.

The team found several underlying “risk factors” that contributed to the large quantity of unsubmitted SAKs in Detroit, including:

  1. Victim-blaming beliefs and behaviors by police.
  2. No written protocol for submitting kits to the lab for testing.
  3. Budget cuts that reduced the number of law enforcement and crime lab personnel.
  4. High turnover in police leadership.
  5. Lack of community-based victim advocacy services.

The final report gives a detailed look at their experience, including lessons learned from performing a census of SAKs, uncovering factors that contributed to the problem, testing of a sample of 1,600 kits, and developing victim-centered, trauma-informed notification protocols.

This STRATEGIES in Brief from AEQuitas explains the legal requirements for establishing penetration in sexual assault prosecutions and offers strategies for effectively identifying, evaluating, and presenting evidence of penetration.

This article includes the findings of an NIJ-funded study examining how wrongful convictions affect the original crime victims. Researchers from ICF International conducted in-depth studies to identify the shared experiences and service needs of the original crime victims in 11 cases of wrongful conviction.  In total, researchers interviewed 33 individuals:

  • Eleven victims (including immediate family members in cases of homicide)
  • Nine prosecutors
  • Four service providers
  • Three law enforcement officers
  • Two family members
  • Two individuals who provided victims with legal advice
  • Two innocence commission members

The study found that wrongful convictions have a significant impact on the original crime victims and exposed a lack of services available to them. The researchers also noted that although we have made significant strides over the past three decades to identify wrongfully convicted individuals and to help them gain their freedom and transition to life after exoneration, additional research is still needed to fully understand the experiences and address the needs of the original crime victims during this process.

The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 requires that sexual assault victims must not be required to file law enforcement reports in order to receive free exams. This study examined how states are meeting these goals. It found that victim compensation funds are by far the largest funder of exams across the country. In the 19 jurisdictions included in case studies, victims generally received free exams without having to report if they did not want to. However, barriers to even accessing the exam prevent some victims from seeking help.

Read full report.

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