In September 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) was awarded two, $2 million grants to implement their plan to address the accumulated unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAK)s around the state. One of the grant funders, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), required DOJ to conduct a detailed inventory of every sexual assault kits (SAK) in the possession of local law enforcement and hospitals across the state before any SAKs could be tested. After a year of collecting case-specific information from all of Wisconsin’s 557 law enforcement agencies and every hospital that conducts forensic exams, WI DOJ was able to report to BJA that there were approximately 6,300 SAKs around the state.
Collecting this inventory and the data was no small effort as information was required from each and every kit, along with an examination of accompanying documentation, such as case files. Local law enforcement agencies and hospitals put in a tremendous amount of time and effort collecting and reporting this information to DOJ. There is a variety of reasons why kits were never submitted for testing, including:
- The case was resolved without the need to test the evidence from the sexual assault kit;
- The victim chose not to participate in the criminal justice process;
- The suspect was identified through other means and the test was not needed for identification purposes;
- Law enforcement agencies are required under Wisconsin Statute 968.205(2) to retain biological evidence until an offender has reached their discharge date.
Wisconsin has taken action to ensure that kits that should be tested, will be tested. Under the leadership of Attorney General Brad Schimel, DOJtook the initiative and voluntarily stepped forward to coordinate and lead a multidisciplinary response involving law enforcement, prosecutors, hospitals, victim advocates and crime lab analysts. These professionals worked to create a protocol and plan for categorizing and testing the unsubmitted kits. It is a plan and protocol that prioritizes victim consent, by researching the reason the kit was not submitted upon collection and discerning the victim’s wishes of whether or not to engage with the criminal justice system.
For more information on the inventory process, please visit the data and results page.