Statewide Audit of Sexual Assault Examination Processes Finds Need for Reform
Audit report highlights inconsistencies in forensic evidence collection process
Trenton, N.J. – A report from the Office of the State Auditor found “deficiencies concerning the tracking of SAFE [Sexual Assault Forensic Examination] Kits, as well as inconsistent policies and procedures” from law enforcement in collecting and processing rape kits.
The audit further found that while New Jersey does not have a “rape kit backlog” in terms of processing kits, 48 percent of all SAFE kits collected between July 2014 and August 2018 are being “held by law enforcement agencies for various reasons.” While the overwhelming majority of these kits are being withheld from testing for survivor-centered reasons – like the victim opting to hold their kit for up to five years or choosing not to pursue a criminal complaint – other reasons included “investigator suspected the act was consensual” and a “history of unfounded allegations.”
“The State Auditor’s report further underscores what we have heard before: while we do not have a ‘rape kit backlog’ in the Garden State, practice for evidence collection varies from county to county,” said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “For a long time, advocacy for survivors of sexual violence was not being taken seriously, in part because we lacked the kind of concrete data that this report includes. This audit is quite honestly a reflection of the Attorney General’s commitment to using data and analysis to support the best policy and practice reform that we can possibly make for victims of violence. This data starts to provide the rich information that we need to ensure survivors are being served to the best of our ability with they engage with the criminal system. We agree with the Auditor’s conclusion that a statewide SAFE kit tracking system would provide better accountability and oversight.”
The Statewide Audit report further found:
- A 10.5 percent increase in kits being held from the most recent year that data was available (August 2017 – August 2018) over the most immediate previous year (August 2016 – August 2017).
- Over half (51 percent) of all surveyed law enforcement agencies reported they have no written procedures for timelines within which an agency should send SAFE kits for forensic testing.
- 73 percent of surveyed law enforcement agencies reported that they have no written policies and procedures for victim notification when a kit is or is not submitted for testing.
ABOUT NJCASA: NJCASA (www.njcasa.org) is the statewide advocacy and capacity building organization that represents the twenty-one county-based rape crisis centers, and the Rutgers University – New Brunswick Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance. NJCASA elevates the voice of sexual violence survivors and service providers by advocating for survivor-centered legislation, training allied professionals, and supporting statewide prevention strategies that work to address and defy the socio-cultural norms that permit and promote rape culture.
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