“Creating a survivor-centered and trauma-informed approach to notification is key to gaining trust and re-engaging victims whose rape kits were not tested and whose cases were not pursued by the criminal justice system.”
- Dr. Rebecca Campbell, Michigan State University
We are proud to present: Navigating Notification: A Guide to Re-engaging Sexual Assault Survivors Affected by the Untested Rape Kit Backlog. This report, generously underwritten by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, will help communities working to eliminate their backlogs of untested rape kits create survivor-centered, trauma-informed policies and protocols for victim notification.
Since 2010, the Joyful Heart Foundation has made the elimination of the rape kit backlog—hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits across the country—a top priority. In recent years, states and local jurisdictions have started to process the untested rape kits in their police and crime lab storage facilities and to take steps toward eliminating their rape kit backlogs. As they process kits, they are faced with the question of how to re-engage survivors whose cases are often years— sometimes decades—old in a manner that is not re-traumatizing, can enhance the probability that a survivor will engage with the criminal justice system, and will increase the likelihood that a survivor will access the support services they need and deserve.
Given the lack of scholarly research examining and suggesting best practices for victim notification, Joyful Heart partnered with researcher Dr. Courtney Ahrens of California State University at Long Beach to bring together the voices of over 90 survivors and criminal justice, medical, academic, clinical and advocacy professionals to establish a set of best practice recommendations for victim notification.
"As both a survivor of sexual assault and of the rape kit backlog, I am proud to have participated with so many powerful voices for change in service of Navigating Notification," said Natasha Alexenko, Founder of Natasha's Justice Project. "Being notified of the progress of my case after nearly 15 years of waiting for justice is a moment I will carry with me forever. Creating a standard to the practice of survivor notification is a watershed moment for so many of us. Reform is long overdue, and I hope this report helps to bring systemic change to the way survivors are treated in untested kit cases."
It is our goal that this report will serve as a guide to ensure that survivors are notified of the status of their cases in a way that is compassionate, empowering, and respectful of their privacy, while also honoring the immense weight of their experiences and mitigating any harm.
We are grateful to the survivors who courageously and generously shared their experiences with notification, the professionals who offered their expertise and suggestions, and the invaluable leadership of jurisdictions such as Manhattan, Detroit, Cleveland and others as they work to eliminate the backlog of untested kits in their communities and beyond.
For an in-depth analysis of the victim notification research results, please go to http://web.csulb.edu/~cahrens/.
In addition, on May 17, Ilse Knecht, Joyful Heart's Director of Policy & Advocacy, and Dr. Courtney Ahrens, conducted a 40 minute webinar presentation where they described in detail the methodology and findings from our recently published report and conveyed how best to translate this important research into practice. You can watch the webinar below:
On our site, please also find:
- Best Practice Recommendations
- Current Practices & Legislation
- For Survivors: Facts on Notification
- Information for Survivors
Thank you to all of those who have produced meaningful materials on victim notification. We have included some of this research below.