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Evidence Tracking icon Evidence Tracking
Multidisciplinary Response icon Multidisciplinary Response
Forensics icon Forensics
Engaging Victims icon Engaging Victims
Victim Advocacy icon Victim Care
Investigation icon Investigation
Prosecution icon Prosecution
Research icon Research and Evaluation

The SAFER Act
Initiative

The SAFER Working Group was developed to address the SAFER (Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting) Act of 2013, which recommends, in part, the development of best practices and protocols for the collection and processing of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases as listed in the National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach.

Safer Toggle SAFER Act Recommendations      

Chapter 1:
Multidisciplinary Approach

Recommendation

Recommendation 1: A collaborative multidisciplinary approach should be implemented for sexual assault cases.

Recommendation

Recommendation 2: Sexual assault responders should use a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach when engaging with victims of sexual assault.

Recommendation

Recommendation 3: Agencies should collaborate and involve victim advocates early in the process to create a more victim-centered approach to the criminal justice process.

Recommendation

Recommendation 4: The multidisciplinary approach should seek out and include voices from underserved or vulnerable populations in the community’s response to sexual assault cases.

Chapter 2:
The Medical-Forensic Exam and Sexual Assault Evidence Collection

Recommendation

Recommendation 5: Establish minimum standards for a national sexual assault kit (SAK); until that time, states and territories should create a standardized SAK for sexual assault cases that addresses the minimum criteria in the National Adults/ Adolescents Protocol.

Recommendation

Recommendation 6: The medical-forensic exam should be performed by a health care professional specifically trained in the collection of evidence relating to sexual assault cases such as a sexual assault nurse examiner or other appropriately trained medical professional.

Recommendation

Recommendation 7: Guided by the victim history, sexual assault samples should be collected from any victim seeking care as soon as possible and up to five (5) days or longer post-assault. Regardless of the time frame, reimbursement should be provided for the medical-forensic exam.

Recommendation

Recommendation 8: Examiners should concentrate the collection of evidentiary samples by using no more than two swabs per collection area so as not to dilute the biological sample.

Recommendation

Recommendation 9: Sample collection should be an option for all sexual assault victims who present for a medical-forensic exam, including those who choose not to report (unreported) or report anonymously.

Recommendation

Recommendation 10: Suspect sample collection should ideally be completed by a medical-forensic examiner or appropriately trained individual.

Recommendation

Recommendation 11: Due to increased sensitivity in DNA technologies, masks and gloves should be used by all medical-forensic care providers and others in the collection and packaging of evidence, especially during the collection of intimate samples.

Recommendation

Recommendation 12: Policies for medical-forensic record retention should be created in accordance with statutes of limitations and other criminal justice needs rather than with traditional parameters for medical record keeping, storage, retention, and destruction

Chapter 3:
Transparency and Accountability of Law Enforcement for SAKs

Recommendation

Recommendation 13: Law enforcement agencies and laboratories should partner to use one evidence tracking system.

Recommendation

Recommendation 14: The federal government should develop an Electronic Evidence Exchange Standard for the data standards associated with physical forensic evidence.

Recommendation

Recommendation 15: SAKs should be received by the local law enforcement agency from the hospital or clinic as soon as possible, ideally, no later than three (3) business days from the collection of the kit, or as specified by statute.

Recommendation

Recommendation 16: Law enforcement agencies should submit the SAK to the laboratory for analysis as soon as possible, ideally, no later than seven (7) business days from the collection of the SAK, or as specified by statute.

Recommendation

Recommendation 17: Law enforcement or laboratories should be responsible for the long-term storage of all SAKs, unless applicable law provides otherwise.

Recommendation

Recommendation 18: A comprehensive inventory should be conducted to determine the number, status, location, and individual descriptive information (e.g., unique kit identifier, date collected) for all SAKs.

Recommendation

Recommendation 19: Law enforcement agencies should perform an annual audit verifying that all SAKs in the property room are present and in their specified location.

Chapter 4:
Investigative Considerations

Recommendation

Recommendation 20: All SAKs that the victim has consented to reporting to law enforcement should be submitted to the laboratory for DNA analysis.

Recommendation

Recommendation 21: Law enforcement agencies should establish a system of accountability to ensure the timely follow-up on CODIS hits.

Recommendation

Recommendation 22: All law enforcement personnel involved in sexual assault investigations should receive training in the neurobiology of trauma and specialized skills for interviewing sexual assault victims.

Recommendation

Recommendation 23: Law enforcement agencies should implement electronic records management systems that incorporate investigative workflows to improve case investigations and communication.

Chapter 5:
Processing Sexual Assault Kits in the Laboratory

Recommendation

Recommendation 24: With the goal of generating a CODIS-eligible DNA profile, if a laboratory is unable to obtain an autosomal CODIS-eligible DNA profile, the laboratory should evaluate the case to determine if any other DNA-typing results could be used for investigative purposes.

Recommendation

Recommendation 25: Forensic laboratories should have an evidence submission policy/protocol that includes prioritization of evidentiary items.

Recommendation

Recommendation 26: Laboratories should consider the volume of sexual assault cases and use business process improvement tools to review their input/output, identify where bottlenecks occur, and determine if a high-throughput approach to processing will achieve efficiencies.

Recommendation

Recommendation 27: Laboratories should consider changing the order of processing the evidence by going to Direct to DNA and then, only if needed, proceed to serology.

Recommendation

Recommendation 28: Laboratories should consider incorporating robotics and/or automation at each step of the DNA process for the most efficient high-throughput approach.

Recommendation

Recommendation 29: Laboratories should consider the use of standardized reporting templates, a paperless system, and specialized software to assist in the interpretation of DNA mixtures, to streamline interpretation and reporting of DNA results.

Chapter 6:
Post-Analysis Communication and Policy Considerations

Recommendation

Recommendation 30: Jurisdictions should have a victim notification protocol for informing victims of the status of their sexual assault cases, including cases where SAKs are analyzed after many years.

Recommendation

Recommendation 31: Jurisdictions that do not have evidence retention laws should adopt biological evidence retention policies/protocols that are victim-centered and preserve evidence from uncharged or unsolved reported cases for 50 years or the length of the statute of limitations, whichever is greater.

Recommendation

Recommendation 32: Unreported SAKs should be retained for at least the statute of limitations or a maximum of 20 years.

Recommendation

Recommendation 33: States that have not already done so should consider eliminating the statute of limitations for sexual assaults.

Recommendation

Recommendation 34: Jurisdictions should develop a communication strategy to increase transparency and accountability to stakeholders within their communities regarding the response to sexual violence.

Recommendation

Recommendation 35: Mandatory training for those responding to sexual assault should be incorporated into every agency’s strategic plan.

Pre-Packaged Briefcases

The following are pre-packaged resource sets according to the role that you may play on a sexual assault response team.

Our Mission

Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative aims to create a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to sexual assault cases. Through this program, funding is provided to support multidisciplinary community response teams engaged in the comprehensive reform of jurisdictions approaches to sexual assault cases resulting from evidence found in previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits.

This Web site is funded in whole or in part through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this Web site (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).

2020 All Rights Reserved.

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