SART Case Review Resources Project
The Sexual Violence Justice Institute at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (SVJI @ MNCASA) has been funded by the Office of Violence Against Women for the SART Case Review Resources Project. This project will lead two sexual assault response teams (SARTs) through the review of law enforcement sexual assault case files. This project will build SART capacity to understand their local response and analytically process law enforcement case files. This process will then be shared throughout the state and nationally with SARTs so they are able to effectively conduct periodic case file reviews. From this review, law enforcement will gain “tools” to aid them in their complex task of creating a case file that articulates the entire context of a sexual assault and paints a clear picture for prosecution deliberation.
SVJI at MNCASA will work in collaboration with the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA) and the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC) for selection of two teams within their service areas. Local and national project partners from AEquitas: The Prosecutor’s Resource on Violence Against Women; Chief Paul Schnell of Maplewood, Minnesota and Paul Schnell and Associates; International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN); and the Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP) will lend their area of expertise to develop tools to guide the case review processes in the two sites, write case review summaries, and develop a SART Case Review Toolkit for law enforcement agencies and SART leadership. The SART Case Review Resources Project will be led by SVJI Collaboration Specialist, Jessica Van Iperen and Jim Pittenger (Ret. Captain), Project Consultant.
Of the small percentage of sexual assault cases that are reported to law enforcement[i], research estimates that between 7% to 27% eventually result in charges being filed, and only 3% to 26% of those lead to some type of conviction[ii]. This project addresses the significance of the documentation of a sexual assault investigation as the prosecutors’ first introduction to the victim’s account, suspect’s account (if there is one), and the evidence gathered in the case. These documents are the primary, and sometimes only, source used by prosecutors to determine whether to prosecute the reported crime. In addition to standard summaries of interviews with witnesses, crucial context of force or coercion, offender behavior, and other evidence needs to be included in reports for prosecutors to make an informed decision. This project proposes to build the capacity of SARTs and SART leadership, including law enforcement, to conduct multidisciplinary reviews of sexual assault case file documents toward improving sexual assault investigations and the documentation that comprises the case file.
[i] Kilpatrick, D.G, Edmunds, C.N. & Seymour, A.E. (1992) Rape In America: A report to the nation. Arlington, VA: National Victims Center.
[ii] Lonsway, Kimberly A. and Archambault, Joanne. The “Justice Gap” for Sexual Assault Cases: Future Directions for Research and Reform, Violence Against Women 18, p. 156. Available at: http://vaw.sagepub.com/content/18/2/145