The Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (WiSAKI) is a statewide effort to address the accumulation of unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) in the possession of local law enforcement agencies and hospitals. Initiated by the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Response Team (AG SART) and led by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), WiSAKI is a collaborative effort among law enforcement, victim advocates, sexual assault nurse examiners, prosecutors, health care systems, and the Wisconsin State Crime Lab (WSCL).
Frequently Asked Questions
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An unsubmitted sexual assault kit is a sexual assault kit that has not been submitted to a forensic laboratory for testing and analysis using Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) eligible DNA methodologies. For more information about CODIS, click here.
WiSAKI conducted a detailed, statewide inventory of every unsubmitted sexual assault kit in the possession of law enforcement agencies and hospitals across the state. After a year of collecting case-specific information from all of Wisconsin’s 557 law enforcement agencies and every hospital that conducts forensic exams, DOJ was able to report to BJA that there were approximately 6,300 sexual assault kits around the state. Data about kits inventoried and which kits will be tested can be found on the Data & Results page.
While most of the previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) will be tested, the WiSAKI project's victim centered approach has meant there are certain circumstances in which the SAKs are not currently designated for testing. To learn more about those reasons and the breakdown click here.
For the majority of the cases, if the victim reported the assault to law enforcement, that is interpreted as consent to test their kit. If the victim did not report to law enforcement the kit will not be tested. The exception to this rule is for assaults occurring after July 1, 2011, in which the suspect is not identified to law enforcement. State statute (§ 175.405) requires that these kits be submitted to the WSCL.
The new protocol was implemented in January of 2016, allowing a hospital to send the kit directly to the WSCL for storage for up to ten years (the statute of limitations for second and third degree sexual assault in Wisconsin). At the end of that ten years, if the survivor hasn’t come forward to report the assault, the kit will be destroyed. If the survivor does come forward to report the assault, law enforcement will request the WSCL test the kit.
In collaboration with the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA), local sexual assault service providers and sexual assault survivors, the By Your Side campaign was launched in January of 2017. By Your Side provides a venue for survivors to reach out for information about their kit or the testing efforts in general on their terms, when they’re ready.
Victim notification is a crucial step in this process and must be performed with the utmost respect for the survivor’s confidentiality and privacy. While individual law enforcement jurisdictions will ultimately decide when and how to notify survivors, there are recommended practices and protocols available to ensure that notification is accomplished in a timely, victim-centered and trauma-informed manner:
- minimizing the impact of trauma upon the survivors;
- providing accurate information about the DNA analysis and status of any potential investigation or prosecution; and
- affording survivors the opportunity to receive counseling and services, regardless of their decision to participate in or assist with any further investigation or prosecution.
The National SAKI Training and Technical Assistance Team has developed “12 Key Questions to Guide Victim Notification Protocols” to assist local jurisdictions in developing their local policies and practices.
The WI Department of Justice has contracted with Bode Cellmark Forensics and Sorenson Forensics, private, accredited labs, and Marshall University Forensics Science Center, to test the majority of the previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs). The kit testing process is complex and it can take anywhere from weeks to months to complete the process for each kit.
DOJ received grant money to pay for the processing and testing of unsubmitted sexual assault kits. In September 2015, the DOJ was awarded a $2 million grant from the District Attorney’s Office of New York (DANY), solely for expenses related to testing the kits. DOJ was also awarded $2 million grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). The BJA grant covers kit testing, DOJ’s SAKI Sexual Assault Response Team, and the By Your Side campaign.
DOJ’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Sexual Assault Response Team consists of a victim services specialist, two special agents with the Division of Criminal Investigation, one assistant attorney general, and a research analyst. This team will be available to assist local jurisdictions with victim notification protocols, as well as with investigating and prosecuting cases that may arise from the testing of unsubmitted sexual assault kits.