Office of the Prosecuting Attorney
Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI)
What is the Kalamazoo County Sexual Assault Kit Initiative?
Over the last few years, across the United States, communities have discovered that tens of thousands of sexual assault forensic evidence kits had never been sent in for testing. In response, the State of Michigan took a proactive approach and asked every law enforcement agency to report the number of untested kits they had in their possession. In 2016, grants received by the Michigan State Police from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance funded the inventory and testing of more than 3,000 previously untested sexual assault forensic evidence kits from across the State of Michigan and over 50,000 nationwide. Nearly 180 of the kits were from Kalamazoo County.
The purpose of testing these kits is to determine if DNA profiles of potential perpetrators can be obtained from evidence collected from the victim and/or the crime scene. In many - but not all - cases, a DNA profile may assist law enforcement and prosecutors in identifying the perpetrator and proving that the crime occurred. Across the United States, testing of these kits has identified hundreds of dangerous serial offenders.
The goal of the Kalamazoo County Sexual Assault Kit Initiative is to bring justice to women, men, and children who have been victims of sexual assault in Kalamazoo County and to hold their offenders accountable. To accomplish this, the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Attorney General and the YWCA of Kalamazoo, created a team of specially trained professionals to review the cases and test results related to each of the Kalamazoo County kits and determine which cases can be prosecuted. Through this project we hope to provide closure and protection to victims and our community.
Why Were There Untested Kits in Kalamazoo?
There are many reasons why some Kalamazoo County sexual assault forensic evidence kits were not tested in the past. For example, in some cases, the suspect confessed, pled guilty, or was convicted at trial without need for the kit to be tested. New legislation now requires every kit provided to law enforcement to be tested and law enforcement recognizes testing every kit is a best practice. Law enforcement's preservation of the kits provided the opportunity to review and re-investigate each of these cases and, where appropriate, pursue prosecution.
With the testing of Kalamazoo County's kits completed, each case will be carefully reviewed, and, when appropriate, re-investigated to determine if the case can be prosecuted at this time and if the victim wishes to participate with prosecution.
Will There Continue To Be Untested Kits in the Future in Kalamazoo?
In 2015, the Michigan Legislature enacted the "Sexual Assault Kit Evidence Submission Act." This Act requires that law enforcement submit all sexual assault forensic evidence kits for testing within 14 days of receipt. The Act also requires that the crime lab test the evidence in the kit within 90 days of receipt from a law enforcement agency.
It is important to note that sexual assault victims have the choice whether to release their kit to law enforcement. If they do not want to release their kit to law enforcement for testing, the healthcare provider that collected the evidence must store the kit for no less than one year to allow the victim time to consider whether s/he wants the kit submitted for testing.
What Happens Now That All of the Kalamazoo County Kits Have Been Tested?
The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Attorney General, has created a team of professionals who will carefully review each of these cases. This team consists of a dedicated attorney from the Michigan Department of Attorney General who is assigned to this project in Kalamazoo, two investigators, who are employees of the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office, one community-based victim advocate employed by the YWCA and specifically assigned to this project, and one victim advocate employed by the Prosecutor's Office and specifically assigned to this project.
The Kalamazoo County SAKI team carefully reviews the lab reports for every kit along with police reports, medical records, and any other available evidence related to the reported assault. Issues such as the statute of limitations - which take into account many variables, including: when the assault occurred, how old the victim was at the time of the assault, whether the victim knew the identity of the perpetrator at the time the assault was reported, what type of assault occurred, and whether the perpetrator resided outside the state following the assault - will also be reviewed by the SAKI team.
When appropriate, an investigator and an advocate will make in-person contact with victims to let them know that their kit has been tested and that we would like to set up a meeting with them to discuss the testing results, the original incident, and their options for going forward. Victims will then meet with the entire SAKI team, including the attorney from the Department of Attorney General, to learn more about the Kalamazoo SAKI project and the specific work that the SAKI team has been doing and would like to do on their case.
Victims will never be pressured to participate with prosecution. However, similar projects in other communities across the country have found that the majority of victims are appreciative that their kit has now been tested and many are willing to participate in prosecution.
How Do I Know if My Case is Part of This Project?
If you were the victim of a sexual assault between 1980 and October 2015 in Kalamazoo County and you participated in a sexual assault examination where evidence was collected from your body, your case may be a part of this project. If you have any questions, please call or email Special Assistant Attorney General Erin House at the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office at 269-383-8909 or Rachel Johnson, SAKI Victim Advocate, at the YWCA at 269-569-0062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Can I Expect If My Case is Part of This Project:
We want to assure you that we will work closely and respectfully with you as we conduct additional investigation into your case. We will provide you with information about the results of our investigation and access to supportive services to assist you. Ultimately, we will talk with you about whether your case can be prosecuted and what your options are for being involved if the case is prosecuted. We promise to respect and support your decision about whether to participate in prosecution.
We recognize that re-opening these cases can be upsetting for victims/survivors and may trigger memories of the traumatic incident. Notification of a SAKI investigation, or even just thinking back about an assault that occurred, may trigger a range of reactions including flashbacks, anxiety, fear, anger, depression, and difficulty sleeping. This project funds a counselor from the YWCA who is available to provide support, advocacy, and counseling to victims free of charge. The YWCA Kalamazoo can be reached - 24-hours/day - at 269-385-3587. We encourage victims/survivors to take care of themselves and to reach out for support from family, friends, the SAKI team and the YWCA.
This Project is Made Possible by Funding From the Michigan Legislature and Collaboration Between:
- The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office
- The Michigan Department of Attorney General
- The YWCA Kalamazoo
- The Prosecuting Attorney's Association of Michigan
- The Michigan State Police
- Galesburg Police Department
- Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office
- Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety
- Kalamazoo Township Police Department
- Portage Police Department
- Schoolcraft Police Department
- Western Michigan University Police Department