But we do not have a national number, and that would
actually be fairly challenging to do. It took Detroit the better
part of almost four months just to count the number of
kits that they had, and to try to verify their testing status.
The kits had to be counted manually [because there was no
IT infrastructure in place to track them. And because they
are legal evidence], they had to be counted by very specific
people in very specific and tightly controlled situations.
What we do know from social science studies that have been
done, and investigative reporting projects, is that this is not a
regional problem and it is not limited to large urban districts. It
is truly coast-to-coast and happens in small, medium and large
What are you working on now?
As I mentioned, I’m working on the training and technical
assistance grant for other cities, which is led by RTI
International. My colleagues and I have also received funding
from the National Institute of Justice to do a follow-up analysis
of the DNA identification matches that come from the full
number of kits that were finally tested in Detroit, with an eye
toward identifying patterns of serial sexual assaults over time.
We’re trying to understand how many of these assaults occurred
in the context of other crimes and how many of them were a
part of a series of sexual assaults that were committed by an
Have any new training or education programs for
police officers been put into place in Detroit since
your study began?
Absolutely. Now we have new laws and policies to address some
of these problems and attitudes and myths.
We developed a comprehensive training program for
law enforcement on the neurobiology of trauma and its
implications for practitioners, which really was a way of
addressing some of their underlying stereotypes and taking
a very evidence-based approach to explaining why victims
behave the way they do, and how to do trauma-informed
And then my colleagues at the Michigan Domestic and
Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board created a
new model policy for law enforcement investigations in sexual
assault cases. They brought together expertise from psychology,
social work and criminal justice to suggest the best ways to
approach sexual assault investigations, and to tackle some of
those rape myths and stereotypes. That protocol was released in
So do you feel you’ve seen a big change, then?
The training and the model policies that are being put out
reflect the best of what we know from the current research, so
I’m very optimistic that we are starting to see some changes in
frontline practice. n
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