The Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Action Research Project (ARP)

Published by: Dr. Rebecca Campbell, Kimberly Hurst, PA-C

The Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Action Research Project (ARP) was formed to study the underlying reasons why police are not submitting rape kits for testing, and to develop evidence-based testing plans. This multidisciplinary team included researchers, law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, forensic scientists, rape victim advocates, mental health professionals, and state policy makers. In this presentation, the faculty describes how Detroit discovered that they had so many untested SAKs and the census results regarding the number of kits in police property. Then the faculty presents the results of a thirty-year historical analysis to understand why Detroit had so many untested SAKs.

Informed by ecological systems theory and based on data from stakeholder interviews, ethnographic observations, archival records, and a review of 1,268 police reports, presenters describe how chronic scarcity created a psychological mindset that not all victims could be helped or should be helped. Next the faculty present the forensic testing outcomes from the 1,595 SAKs that were tested in this project (e.g., how many offenders were identified by testing). Finally, the faculty discusses policy changes at the local, county, and state level that stemmed directly from the research findings.