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Sexual Assault Kit Initiative To Revamp Trainings

SAKI Sexual Assault Kit Initiative
SAKI Sexual Assault Kit Initiative

The group tasked with addressing Montana's backlog of untested rape kits is planning a series of statewide trainings and revamping the sexual assault investigation training for police officers in the state.

The Montana Department of Justice established its sexual assault kit initiative, or SAKI, in 2015 with federal funds. It’s a response to the backlog of almost 1,300 sexual assault kits that were found untested in Montana.

Since then, SAKI has worked with local law enforcement to investigate all the kits, leading to the arrest of one perpetrator.

At the 2019 Crime Prevention Conference in Billings this week, SAKI training coordinator Bryan Fischer said the Montana Law Enforcement Academy will adopt a new curriculum for sexual assault investgiation training in January.

It replaces what Fischer called an insufficient four-hour sexual assault investgiation training with a more intensive 12-hour course that includes a victim interview simulation and a pass-fail exam.

Fischer said Montana is working to teach officers best practices when following up on sexual assault cases, like how to broach difficult, uncomfortable conversations in one-on-one interactions with survivors.

“And part of it is that how do you say that, how do you have the conversation? How do you ask questions that aren’t going to be re-traumatizing? Because that’s what the majority officers found is that they were fearful of re-traumatizing the survivor of that crime,” Fischer says.

Also starting between now and early 2020, he said SAKI will start to hold trainings across the state for criminal justice professionals, most likely starting in eastern Montana and rural areas with fewer resources.

The Montana Legislature unanimously passed a bill this year that requires law enforcement agencies to submit most rape kits for testing within 30 days.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.