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What I Learned at COVA About Reporting Options for Sexual Assault Victims

November 26th, 2019 by ATV Staff

Written by Liz Venable, Victim Response Team Coordinator

Liz joined Alternatives to Violence in the beginning of 2019. Her background is a bachelor’s in human services leadership from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a dual minor in women and gender studies and social justice with emphasis in prejudice and discrimination. Liz has worked in victim services since 2013 working with victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

This year was the 31st annual COVA conference and my first time attending. COVA brings law enforcement, victim advocates, lawyers, social workers and counselors together from across the state and surrounding states. Attendees have the opportunity to network, learn, and teach other colleagues on their experience in victim assistance. The annual COVA (Colorado Organization for Assistance) conference in Keystone provided over 72 workshops over a four-day period. I will share some insight on an important topic from one of those workshops.

Recently, there have been many articles showing an extreme number of untested forensic exams, also known as sexual assault evidence kits or rape kits, finally being tested after being backlogged for decades that have led to help solve many open or cold cases. Related to this is the workshop I would like to talk about, “Is Sexual Assault Forensic Compliance Working?” This workshop taught me more about reporting options for victims of sexual assault that I’d like to share. After a sexual assault, forensic exams can often retrigger victims and make them feel violated again. Imagine having to go through invasive testing to find evidence to help solve the crime after being assaulted, and then it is backlogged and untested for 30 years? Untested kits prevent justice and healing for survivors and their loved ones everywhere. Testing the kit can identify serial offenders or exonerate wrongfully convicted through DNA evidence. In 2016, Colorado dedicated 3.3 million dollars to process 3,542 untested rape kits, resulting in 691 matches to convicted felons and created an additional 1,556 DNA profiles that can help match cases moving forward.

There are three types of reporting: law enforcement, medical and anonymous. When reporting to law enforcement, this report leads to an investigation and if a forensic exam is completed, the evidence will be collected and analyzed. With new laws in place, if a survivor opts in to move forward with an investigation, any new kit must be sent in within 21 days to be tested to prevent further backlog. If a victim wants to go the medical report route, an exam is done and the kit identifying information is provided to law enforcement but no charges are filed and no investigation is done. This gives the victim the power to report with evidence if and when they are ready. The last option is an anonymous report where a rape kit is done but given a number with no identifying information and is connected to a medical record. It is stored for a minimum of two years. If a victim wants to report moving forward, they will have to use the medical record to make an additional report to law enforcement or medical staff.

By providing options for survivors, it empowers them to make the best decision for them as every case is very different. It is crucial for medical staff, law enforcement and victim advocates to know about these options to be able to explain the pros and cons for each option and give the power back to the survivor. It is important to advocate for sexual assault evidence kit reform to make testing kits a priority. Especially with the current outrage from our communities, survivors, and advocates about untested kits, it is important to give the power back to the survivor and being able to support them in making their decision.

Reasons to Give on Colorado Gives Day

November 12th, 2019 by ATV Staff

Welcome to the new ATV blog! Our goal is to make this blog a valuable resource that provides helpful and timely information on ways to help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking right here in our community.

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