Gov. Malloy: Connecticut Receives $2.6 Million to Assist State’s Efforts in Processing and Testing of Sexual Assault Kits
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that the State of Connecticut has been awarded two competitive, federal grants worth $2.6 million that will assist in the state’s efforts to improve the processing and testing of sexual assault evidence kits. The grants come to the state as part of the ongoing work of the Governor’s Sexual Assault Kit Working Group, which Governor Malloy formed in 2016 to assist in the standardization and advancement in testing evidence kits by the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory.
“The evidence we collect with sexual assault kits can help solve and prevent crime. It can corroborate a victim’s account, eliminate or identify a suspect, identify someone with previous convictions, and link cases to identify serial rapists,” Governor Malloy said. “When victims bravely come forward, we need to make sure that we have a system in place that supports survivors and ensures the evidence that is so carefully collected is tested and utilized. In Connecticut, we are working to make sure we get our system right. It is a matter of justice, and it is a matter of public safety.”
A $1.85 million Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance – a component of the Office of Justice Programs within the U.S. Department of Justice – will be used to test approximately 1,000 partially-tested kits that still require DNA testing. Further, this funding will support coordinated investigation and victim notification for cases that may be re-opened, training for law enforcement officers and state’s attorneys, as well as academic research at Central Connecticut State University to learn more about these cases and what can be done to improve investigation and prosecution.
A $750,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice – also a component of the U.S. Department of Justice – will support a new method of testing that searches for the presence or absence of male DNA. This new method will allow the state to increase capacity, efficiency, and quality of DNA screenings.
“Victims of sexual assault should know that the State of Connecticut is doing everything possible to bring their attacker to justice,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said. “Supporting the efforts of law enforcement, ensuring kits get tested, and strengthening victim notification opportunities will further important progress in handling sexual assault evidence.”
“These funds are vital to our state’s ongoing collaborative effort to support survivors in the aftermath of an assault and to improve the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault crimes,” Laura Cordes, Chair of the Governor’s Sexual Assault Kit Working Group and Executive Director of the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, said. “When we set about our work more than three years ago to address untested kits in our state, we didn't know the number of kits that would be identified, but we certainly knew that finding the funding to test them would be critical. With this second SAKI grant we will be able to test every single one.”
The Governor’s Sexual Assault Kit Working Group, operating in collaboration with local and state law enforcement, have made a number of advancements on this issue since their formation, including:
- Substantial progress testing sexual assault kits that had previously gone untested for years. All 1,188 unprocessed sexual assault kits identified through a 2015 survey have been transferred to the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory for testing. To date, 75 percent have been tested.
- A new barcode system has been implemented for all kits under a contract with UPS that utilizes software to track the kits. All new kits purchased by the state and provided to hospitals have barcodes and hospital emergency room departments are currently receiving training to track sexual assault kits in the new online tracking system.
- Communications between the State’s Attorneys, the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory, and law enforcement regarding DNA hits for these specific cases has been significantly enhanced.
- Victim centered notification guidelines have been developed for victims who may be notified if their case is re-opened due to the testing of DNA evidence in their sexual assault evidence collection kit.
- Two all-day training events for prosecutors and law enforcement regarding the investigation of sexual assault cases and trauma-informed interview practices were recently conducted.