A sexual assault can be one of the most traumatic experiences in a survivor’s life, often having a long-term impact. Any attempt to notify a survivor of testing results or to offer them the opportunity to re-engage with the criminal justice system must be victim-centered, trauma-informed, and protective of their confidentiality and privacy. This includes:
- respecting the survivor’s choice not to engage;
- attending to the survivor’s emotional safety, as well as their physical safety;
- empowering the survivor by offering options and providing ongoing information, resources, services, and support; and,
- educating responding professionals and the general community about the impact of trauma on survivors’ health and well-being.
The needs and best interests of survivors are of utmost concern so any notification should be done in collaboration with a community-based victim advocate and law enforcement. Notification provides the opportunity to offer a genuine apology to survivors and to attempt to regain their trust in the criminal justice system.
Members of the AG SART and other subject matter experts including survivors, victim advocates, sexual assault forensic nurses, law enforcement officers, victim/witness professionals, prosecutors, and crime laboratory staff developed a protocol to guide the SAKI SART’s survivor notification efforts after a previously unsubmitted sexual assault kit was tested. The DOJ SAKI Survivor Notification Protocol can be found here.
There are several other resources available to guide survivor notification and re-engagement efforts:
WiSAKI Survivor Notification and Engagement Training Videos: These modules were recorded during a two-day training on Victim Notification and Engagement that was held in Appleton, WI, in November 2017.
Criminal justice professionals can finding training on engaging victims and victim care at the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.