CHARLESTON – United States Attorneys Booth Goodwin (Southern District of West Virginia) and William J. Ihlenfeld, II (Northern District of West Virginia) have announced almost $3 million in grants to the State of West Virginia designed to reduce the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in West Virginia.
The State of West Virginia grants include a $1,170,800 grant to the West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Services and a $1,763,281 grant to the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory. The grants are part of $79 million in grant awards to 43 jurisdictions in 27 states to eliminate or reduce the number of untested sexual assault kits across the country. The grant initiative was announced earlier today in New York by Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
Biden and Lynch announced $41 million in grant awards to 20 jurisdictions to eliminate or reduce the number of untested sexual assault kits across the country. The announcement is part of an unprecedented partnership with the New York County District Attorney’s Office (DANY) – whose own grant program is contributing $38 million to the cause for a total of $79 million to eliminate the backlog reaching 43 jurisdictions in 27 states across the country.
“Rape kits are an essential tool in modern crime fighting — not only for the victim, but, for the entire community. Studies show we solve up to 50 percent of previously unsolved rapes when these kits are tested. When we solve these cases, we get rapists off the streets. For most survivors, seeing their rapists brought to justice, and knowing that they will not return, brings peace of mind and a sense of closure. The grants we’re announcing today to reduce the national rape kit backlog will bring that sense of closure and safety to victims while improving community safety,” Biden said.
“The groundbreaking initiative we are announcing today is part of the Justice Department’s longstanding efforts to support survivors of sexual violence and to bring abusers to justice,” Lynch said. “For anyone who has felt isolated and afraid, left out and left behind as a result of a sexual crime, our message is clear: we will not forget you. We will not abandon you. You are not alone.”
The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, a competitive grant program administered by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), supports the comprehensive reform of jurisdictions’ approaches to evidence found in sexual assault kits that have never been submitted to a crime laboratory for testing. BJA created the initiative in consultation with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Office for Victims of Crime, (OVC), and Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The goals of the initiative are to create a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to these cases whenever possible through a victim-centered approach, as well as to build jurisdictions’ capacity to prevent conditions that lead to high numbers of untested kits. The funding awarded through DANY’s program will pay directly for testing kits, and the combined effort between BJA and DANY is projected to achieve testing of approximately 70,000 sexual assault kits. BJA and DANY partnered to reach as many jurisdictions as possible and also to identify jurisdictions where funding could be combined to adequately address kit backlogs.
The initiative is part of the Justice Department’s larger ongoing effort to comprehensively address the problem of sexual assault and to support victims. For example, NIJ maintains a webpage on Sexual Assault Investigations, Sexual Assault Kits: Using Science to Find Solutions, which provides information ranging from improving forensic sexual assault examinations to research findings on untested evidence in sexual assault cases. OVC provides a Sexual Assault Response Team Toolkit, which has over 1.4 million views to date and includes a checklist of recommendations for victim-centered policies and practices in developing a sexual assault response. OVW updated the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations and released a companion document on Recommendations for Administrators of Prisons, Jails, and Community Confinement Facilities for Adapting the U.S. Department of Justice's National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents.
Since 2008, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has provided more than $825 million for DNA analysis in crime laboratories and for activities such as research dedicated to strengthening the accuracy and reliability of forensic science.