Begun Center Awarded $465,000 as Evaluator for Sexual Assault Kit Task Force

The United States Department of Justice announced that the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and its partners will receive nearly $2 million over the next three years to accelerate the work of bringing rapists to justice, assisting the survivors of those crimes and changing the culture of law enforcement here and throughout the country when it comes to investigating sexual assaults.

Listen to Rachel Lovell explain the SAK initiative on WKSU’s Morning Edition

As part of this initiative, the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at the Mandel School has been awarded a three-year, $465,000 grant to analyze Ohio’s procedures for alleviating the backlog of Sexual Assault Kits. The CWRU team is using data compiled by the task force to understand what led to the backlog of kits and to provide recommendations, best practices and training to prevent it from happening again.

The Begun research team, consisting of Rachel Lovell, Fred Butcher, Laura T. Overman, and Tiffany Walker, will be conducting a mixed-method process evaluation of all aspects of the investigation, victim advocacy, and prosecution of the Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) cases.

“Cuyahoga County is probably further along, if not the most successful city in the United States in prosecuting these unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits,” says Dr. Lovell, a Senior Research Associate at the Center. “But they have yet to assess the process — what works, what doesn’t work, what about the process caused and could prevent future backlogs. From our research and evaluation, we will develop a white paper or a series of papers and training materials that will be used as a best practices for Cleveland to refine their process, as well as for other cities that are just starting to test the SAKs.”

“We will also expand on our current efforts to code the SAK cases now to see what information should investigators collect to identify patterns, solve cases, and support successful prosecution earlier,” Rachel says. “Coding cases in order to see what factors affect prosecutorial outcomes. What kinds of cases drop off at certain points? In an effort to improve successful investigation and prosecution of sexual assault that also adequately support and respect victims.”