Sexual Assault Training & Investigations


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SATI e-News:  January 16,2006

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Sexual Assault Training and Investigation
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In this issue:
 
Legislative News

  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Renewed

  • GPS Tracks Sex Offenders, Allows Crime Scene Correlation

Sexual Assault News

  • Rape of Tourists Traveling Abroad

  • Update on Katrina Disaster Relief and Sexual Assaults

Forensic News

  • Illinois Pulls Contract from Virginia DNA Lab

  • Independent Probe Highlights Major Deficiencies at Houston Crime Lab

Promising Practices: From the Desk of the Training Director

  • VAWA 2005 Restricts the Use of Polygraphs with Victims of Sexual Assault

Featured Resources

  • Online DNA Training Module: What Every Officer Should Know

  • EVAW International Conference Manual

  • Online Forum on Stalking: Awareness and Best Practices in Victim Services

  • Sexual Assault on Campus: What Colleges and Universities are Doing About It

 

Legislative News

 

 
Violence Against Women Act Renewed
Just hours before adjourning in 2005 Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which supports efforts to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and dating violence across the country. President Bush signed VAWA into law on January 5. This is the second reauthorization since VAWA was originally enacted in 1994.
 
The legislation authorizes $3.9 billion over the next five years. In addition to funding existing programs, VAWA also creates new programs, policies and protections for victims in response to requests from the field.[read more]
 
While VAWA has always funded domestic violence programs and shelters, the 2005 reauthorization for the first time extends to agencies, which provide direct services to victims of sexual assault, up to $250 million over five years. $45 to $55 million (depending on appropriation levels) is earmarked to address sexual assault in rural communities.
 
Other highlights include:

  • An increase in funding for the STOP grant program from $185 million/year to $225 million/year.

  • A new condition that prohibits recipients of STOP grants from asking or requiring victims of sexual offenses to submit to a polygraph exam as a condition of proceeding with an investigation (see promising practices article, below);

  • A new grant program to train school personnel to recognize signs of violence in schools and establish policies for intervention ($25 million over five years).

  • New protections for domestic violence victims threatened with eviction from public housing or with losing housing subsidies as a result of the criminal acts of their abusers.

  • Expansion of the federal stalking law to cover surveillance of victims by technology (this is in response to reports from the field that stalkers were using newly available GPS devices to track their victims).

  • Creates three new grant programs aimed at strengthening the healthcare system’s response to violence against women ($65 million over 5 years);

  • Withholds some federal funding from states that do not have laws allowing victims of rape and sexual assault to learn the HIV status of their attacker within 48 hours of an indictment.

  • VAWA 2005 will clarify that in order for state and tribal governments to use STOP grant funds to pay for forensic medical exams for sexual assault victims, victims shall not be required to seek reimbursement from their insurance company. It also ensures that the victim must not be required to participate in the criminal justice system or cooperate with law enforcement in order to be provided with a forensic medical exam or reimbursement for such exam.

Susan Howley of the National Center for Victims of Crime is clearly pleased with funding levels, but she cautions that at this point the amounts are only authorized, not appropriated. It’s important for advocates and others in the field to stay tuned to developments and be prepared to act quickly to urge Congress to appropriate these funds.
 
Source:
H.R. 3402.ENR (Enrolled as Agreed to or passed by both House and Senate).

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GPS Tracks Sex Offenders, Allows Crime Scene Correlation
Within the past year nine states – Alabama, California, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee -- have passed laws to employ Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology to track the movements of sex offenders. These laws were passed largely in response to high profile cases in which sex offenders on parole continued to commit heinous crimes. A recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that nationwide, one-fourth of registered sex offenders cannot be located.
 
The National Conference of State Legislatures expects GPS surveillance to be one of the top 10 legislative issues of 2006. [read more]
 
There are two types of GPS surveillance: active and passive. Active GPS allows the offender to be tracked in “real time” on a computer that depicts the offender’s location on a city map. The technology also allows authorities to set parameters that restrict an offender from being in certain areas such as a victim’s neighborhood or a school. If the offender violates the boundaries, an alert is registered at the monitoring center and relayed to authorities. The system can also notify the victim automatically by beeper.
 
Passive GPS technology has many of the same features as Active GPS, but it does not report the offender’s movements in real time. Instead, the system maintains a log of his location through daily transmissions via phone. Passive technology is less expensive, but it requires more human resources to analyze the downloaded data.
 
Florida has been experimenting with equipment that integrates electronic monitoring devices with crime scene mapping in a Web-based application for law enforcement agencies and crime scene analysts. Florida’s recidivism rate has declined to less than 5% in the three years since the technology has been in operation in the state according to Hoyt Layson Jr., designer of the GPS system.
 
Sources:

“Electronic Monitoring Should be Better Targeted to the Most Dangerous Offenders,” Report No. 05-19, National Institute of Justice, April 2005.
 
“States Move on Sex Offender GPS Tracking,” Associated Press, July 30, 2005.
 
“Sex Offender GPS Tracking Proposed,” Times-Picayune, August 27, 2005.
 
“Annual Meeting Sessions Summary: Crime Technology: Science Meets Law & Order,” National Conference of State Legislatures, August 18, 2005.

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Sexual Assault News

 
   
Rape of Tourists Traveling Abroad
Shortly after taking his post in September 2004, John Rood, Ambassador to the Bahamas, was shocked to learn of the number of unsolved rapes reported by tourists in the Bahamas. Bahamian police say they’ve received reports of 55 sexual assaults of foreigners over the past three years, 25 of whom are American tourists. Of the 55 cases, nine reports were withdrawn by the victim, 21 cases went to court and 23 cases were under investigation. The outcome of the court cases is unknown.
 
Rood wanted to get to the bottom of what he called “horrific situations” and so he decided to make sexual assault one of his administration’s priorities. [read more]
 
Rood requested that the Royal Bahamas Police force notify him of every reported incident – just as he is already alerted about American perpetrators of crimes. He also meets monthly with police authorities to receive updates on investigations.
 
Rood describes the Bahamian authorities as polite and helpful, but is frustrated that they are not forthcoming with more detailed information. For instance, Rood learned from news reports that the suspect in a recent double murder was out on bail pending trial in the charge of rape of an American tourist in 2002. But because the court records are sealed until a defendant is convicted, authorities will not reveal to Rood the name of the American victim.
 
Bahamian authorities lack their own DNA resources, relying on Florida’s Broward County Crime Lab to process DNA requests. Detectives on the local police force are reportedly receiving DNA evidence training from the FBI agent stationed in Nassau.
 
When charges are brought against the perpetrator, the case often does not reach a conclusion because it’s difficult for victims to travel back to the country to testify. Defense attorneys often use multiple continuances as a tactic to avoid prosecution of their client, knowing of the financial hardship on the victim to return to the country. Trying to “wear down” a victim this way is not a new tactic for defense attorneys, but it is one that is even more pronounced for victims of crime abroad.
 
Kim Sweeney who was raped while visiting the Dominican Republic was asked to travel back to the country five times to testify over a five-year period. She had already borrowed to cover the costs of the first four trips and had doubts about continuing to go further into debt, especially not knowing if there would be even more continuances.
 
Sweeney was fortunate to enlist the help of the “It Happened to Alexa Foundation”, which provided financial assistance for her and her Mother to travel back to the Dominican Republic to testify. The final trip resulted in three judges confirming the April 2001 conviction and upholding the initial sentence of ten years in prison. In a testimonial Sweeney told the foundation, “The ruling not only protects other women from this criminal, but also demonstrates to other men that rape is a crime that will be prosecuted.”
 
Sources:

“In the Bahamas, rapes often go unnoticed,” St. Petersburg Times, October 10, 2005.
 
It Happened To Alexa Foundation

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Update on Katrina Disaster Relief and Sexual Assaults
Thanks to those who responded to EVAW International’s appeal in September for assistance to Louisiana law enforcement with donations of equipment and supplies.
 
EVAW International also reported about emerging news reports of rapes of hurricane victims in the aftermath. Information was spotty at that time and even now victims are still dispersed around the country.
 
EVAW International collaborated with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault to create a database to accept reports from hurricane victims. This database was recently featured in a story on National Public Radio, which indicated that 42 such reports of sexual assault had been recorded in the database as of December 21, 2005. [read more]
 
Meanwhile Lt. Dave Benelli, Commander of the Sex Crimes Unit of the New Orleans Police Department, told NPR that his team investigated two attempted rapes inside the Superdome and two rape reports that happened elsewhere in the city. “I admit that rapes are underreported,” Benelli says. “I know more sexual assaults took place. I’ve expressed many times that we’re willing to investigate any sexual assaults that happened in this city at any time. We can only deal with what we know.”
 
Source:

“More Stories Emerge of Rapes in Post-Katrina Chaos,” National Public Radio, December 21, 2005.

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Forensic News

 
   
Illinois Pulls Contract from Virginia DNA Lab
Illinois State Police abruptly cancelled its contract with Bode Technology in late August of last year after its own quality control review determined that the lab had botched nearly a quarter of the results, according to the Chicago Tribune. Illinois state police conducted a random sample testing of 51 rape kits in which Bode had told state police that no semen was found and they discovered semen in 11, an error rate of nearly 22%.[read more]
 
First Deputy Director Doug Brown told the Tribune that he does not believe anyone went free because of botched lab tests. “We (the state police) literally went down case by case to make sure there weren’t any problems,” Brown said.
 
Kevin McElfresh, the Executive Director of Bode, told the New York Times that the company had worked with the state police on revising the methodology it used to test samples after the police pointed out the discrepancies in May. In a statement on their Web site, Bode further stated that “. . . No concerns have been raised regarding the quality of Bode’s DNA testing results. Rather, the issue relates to serology testing results . . . .”
 
Brown told the Tribune that the state would be seeking to recoup $500,000 of the $750,000 the state had spent to have 1,200 samples tested.
 
Bode does testing for 11 other states as well as the Department of Justice. In December, Bode was selected by the Louisiana State Police and the Department of Health and Hospitals to conduct DNA analysis on remains of Hurricane Katrina victims.
 
Sources:
“Crime Lab Botched DNA Tests, State Says,” Chicago Tribune, August 19, 2005.
 
“Illinois State Police Cancels Forensic Lab’s Contract, Citing Errors,” New York Times, August 20, 2005.
 
“Statement Regarding Illinois State Police Contract,” Bode Technology Group, August 22, 2005.
 
“State Police, Department of Health and Hospitals Complete DNA Contracts, Select Vendors,” Louisiana State Police News Release, December 9, 2005.

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Independent Probe Highlights Major Deficiencies at Houston Crime Lab
The crisis in Houston deepened with the release of a report from an independent investigator citing “severe and pervasive problems” with the serology and DNA profiling work performed in the Houston Crime Lab over a 15 year period from 1987 until December 2002 when the DNA section of the Lab was closed. [read more]
 
The report found that analysts in two divisions failed to report evidence that might have helped criminal suspects, and they made errors in almost one-third of the cases reviewed in a test sample. Major issues were identified in 27 DNA cases analyzed by the Crime Lab in the 1990s and early 2000s including deficiencies in the cases of three death row inmates.
 
The investigation did find that certain divisions of the Crime Lab such as firearms, toxicology and documents examination performed highly competent work. Michael Bromwich, a former U.S. Department of Justice inspector general, was contracted by the city of Houston in February 2005 to conduct the independent investigation.
 
In other Texas forensic news, only one-third of the state’s crime labs met the criteria for new accreditation requirements when the state law went into effect in August 2005. The accreditation legislation was prompted by reports of deficiencies at the Houston crime lab. Accreditation can take up to a year to prepare and cost as much as $50,000 according to the Houston Chronicle.
 
Of the 18 accredited labs in the state, 13 are operated by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Without accreditation, the labs are unable to introduce evidence in criminal trials. 28 labs remain unaccredited, most of them in rural areas. The Associated Press reported that at least one private lab closed down because it could not afford accreditation. Officials are concerned that the accredited labs, which have their own backlogs, will be forced to pick up the work load for the other jurisdictions.
 
Sources:
- “HPD Analysts Avoided Serious Penalty Before, Houston Chronicle, January 8, 2006.

“Commission That is to Monitor State Crime Labs Short by 7,” Houston Chronicle, January 3, 2006.

“HPD Lab Probe Details More Lapses,” Houston Chronicle, January 5, 2006.

“Three More Dubious Cases Found in HPD Lab Probe,” Houston Chronicle, January 6, 2006.

“HPD Analysts Avoided Serious Penalty Before,” Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2006.

“Many Crime Labs Won’t Meet State’s Accreditation Rules,” Associated Press, August 28, 2005.

Background of the Investigation of the Houston Crime Lab

Reports of the Houston Crime Lab Independent Investigation

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Promising Practices: From the Desk of the Training Director

 
 


VAWA 2005 Restricts the Use of Polygraphs with Victims of Sexual Assault 
By Joanne Archambault, SATI Training Director and Founder of EVAW International and Dr. Kim Lonsway, EVAW International Director of Research 
 
One of the provisions of the recently enacted VAWA 2005 is that jurisdictions will no longer be eligible for STOP funding if their policy or practice is to ask or require adult, youth or child victims of sexual assault to submit to a polygraph examination or other truth telling device as a condition for proceeding with the investigation of the crime.  In addition, the refusal of a victim to submit to such an examination must not prevent the investigation of the crime.  Jurisdictions have until January 5, 2009 to comply with the law.
 
Over the last few years, I have trained and written articles generally discouraging the use of polygraphs, Voice Stress Analysis and Other Methods for “Lie Detection” during the course of an investigation.  This provision may cause some concern and so I hope this Promising Practices article will help to alleviate resistance to change in departmental policies and procedures as jurisdictions rethink their policies in response to the new law. To further support your efforts to meet this new requirement, we have provided guidance from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and provisions from model laws at the conclusion of this article.
 
First, I often find that polygraphs, like some release waivers, are used to shut down an investigation while providing a perception of immunity, rather than being used to build an investigation.  I also find that these interrogation tactics can sometimes create a “false report” by intimidating victims into withdrawing their cooperation or even recanting their report.  These methods can include the use – or threat of using – polygraph examinations, voice stress analysis, handwriting analysis, statement validity analysis, and other means to determine whether the victim is telling the truth.  Unfortunately, such methods are routinely used with sexual assault victims in some areas of the country, often times as a way of screening cases so that we do not “waste our time” doing an investigation of a report we suspect is false.  [read more]
 
These screening methods are particularly likely to be used with certain types of sexual assault cases -- those that raise some of the “red flags” listed below:

  • The victim and suspect know each other.

  • The victim and suspect have had sex before.

  • The victim is an adolescent.

  • No weapon was used.

  • No physical violence was reported.

  • There is no sign of physical injury.

  • The victim is calm

  • The victim didn’t report to law enforcement for days, weeks, or even months.

  • The victim reported to someone other than law enforcement.

  • The victim is difficult to locate.

  • There is little or no evidence to corroborate the allegation.

  • The victim does not follow through or participate with the investigation.

  • The victim changes his or her account of what happened.

  • The victim is uncertain or vague about the details of the sexual assault.

  • The victim recants.

  • The victim later recalls additional information.

  • Details in the victim’s account are provably false.

  • The victim is not seen as credible.

  • The victim is elderly, disabled, or unattractive.

  • The victim was drunk and/or voluntarily used drugs at the time of the assault.

  • The victim is suspected of being a prostitute or drug addict

  • The victim is thought to be involved in previous criminal behavior.The victim is belligerent.

  • The victim is homeless

  • The victim has a physical or mental impairment

  • The victim fails a polygraph examination.

  • The victim has reported sexual assault(s) in the past.

  • No suspect can be identified.

  • The suspect seems sincerely upset and confused by the allegations.

  • The suspect seems respectable, credible, or even likeable.

  • The suspect is attractive and has an active, consensual sex life.

Yet such methods are widely viewed as inappropriate – both because they are ineffective for this purpose and because they destroy any trust the victim has with law enforcement.  Of course, this in turn eliminates any chance for successful investigation and prosecution. 

Imagine the following scenario:

A woman is sexually assaulted and experiences emotional trauma as a result.  She then decides to report the assault to the local police department, which increases her anxiety level.  The police officer then uses (or threatens to use) some method to determine whether or not she is lying (e.g., a polygraph examination, voice stress analysis, handwriting analysis, statement validity analysis,  etc.), and she interprets this as evidence that the police do not believe her. 

 

This again increases her stress level, which in turn increases the likelihood that the examination or analysis will detect a “lie.”  On this basis, the police investigator determines that the woman has filed a false report, and may even threaten her with prosecution or try to make her pay for the forensic examination that was conducted in her case.  The woman is devastated, and either withdraws her cooperation or recants her story.  The  investigator walks away from the situation, further convinced that most sexual assault reports are false. 

In fact, the polygraph is known to be unreliable when used with people experiencing crisis and many argue that they are therefore inappropriate for use with sexual assault victims (e.g., Jordan, 1996; Sloan, 1995).  Even J.E. Reid, the developer of the modern polygraph examination offers a long list of factors that can influence the validity of the test results, such as:

  • extreme emotional tension or nervousness

  • over anxiety

  • anger

  • concern over neglect of duty or responsibility that made

  • possible the commission of the offense by someone else

  • involvement in other similar acts or offenses

  • physical discomfort during test

  • adrenal exhaustion

  • physiological and mental abnormalities (Reid & Inbau, 1977)

Many of these factors are extremely likely to be seen with sexual assault victims, rendering the validity of the polygraph examination extremely questionable.  Yet other factors may be introduced by the examiner that further limit the validity of the polygraph examination, including:

  • excessive interrogation prior to test

  • excessive number of test questions

  • inadequate question phraseology

  • inadequate control questions (Reid & Inbau, 1977)

Because so many of these factors are likely to be seen in a sexual assault investigation, they suggest that polygraph examinations are simply inappropriate for use with sexual assault victims.  That is why polygraph findings are inadmissible in courts in all 50 states, except for certain, narrowly defined uses.  Several states have even enacted laws to prohibit the use of the polygraph with sexual assault victims or limit the use to very specific circumstances.  Furthermore, because new technologies such as computerized voice stress analysis (CVSA) operate on similar principles, the same advisories apply. 

  • In fact, there is currently no technology available to truly “detect lies.”
     

  • Rather, the polygraph examination and computerized voice stress analysis are designed to detect physiological reactions of stress, which may be associated with lying, or may be caused by anxiety, fear, guilt, and shame associated with sexual assault victimization.

It is therefore recommended that the polygraph should never be used with victims of sexual assault during the course of the investigation – even if the victim requests it.  A competent, evidence-based investigation will most likely reveal the truth much more effectively than these interrogation tactics. 

On the other hand, there are some states and jurisdictions where the polygraph examination is used strategically with sexual assault victims during the courtroom proceedings, however, this is only after a thorough investigation has been completed and documented.  The use of the polygraph examination in this very specific situation is addressed in the Concepts and Issues Paper on sexual assault investigation recently released by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP):

“There are some states and jurisdictions where the polygraph examination is used strategically with sexual assault victims during the courtroom proceedings.  This tactic can be particularly useful in the case of a non-stranger sexual assault resulting in a consent defense, but it should only be used in the phase of courtroom proceedings and not during the investigation.  To illustrate, many defendants state that they will only take a polygraph examination if the victim will also take one at the same time.  In addition, many defense attorneys will not allow the defendant to take a stipulated polygraph if the victim has already passed a polygraph or voice stress test.  In this type of situation, it can sometimes be strategically beneficial to offer a polygraph examination of the victim, in court and in front of the defendant’s wife, girlfriend or mother.  This strategy must be used only if the situation is discussed with the victim in advance, in the presence of a victim advocate or other knowledgeable support person.

 

In some states like Ohio, the results of a stipulated polygraph are admissible because the person administering the polygraph can be called as a witness by the prosecutor to testify at trial as an expert regarding all aspects of the test administered, and “such testimony shall be offered and received as evidence in the trial without objections of any kind by any party to the agreement except as to the weight of the evidence.” Of course, it is critically important to ensure that this practice is not abused by having policies that clearly state that law enforcement should not require, offer, or suggest that a victim take a polygraph or voice stress during the investigation stage.  Using such tactics during the investigation is not recommended because they are not generally reliable under such conditions, they may contribute to a sense of revictimization, and they may eliminate the proper use of a court stipulated polygraph after indictment and during the pre-trial stages” (IACP Concepts and Issues Paper, 2005, p. 13).

For further discussion about when a polygraph examination might be used with victims as a strategic trial tactic rather than an investigative tool, please see the November 25, 2002, Promising Practices Article available at

Despite these concerns, many law enforcement agencies do in fact ask (or require) victims to take a polygraph examination as part of their sexual assault investigation.  For example, based on her national survey of 83 rape crisis centers in 19 states, Sloan (1995) found that:

  • As many as 31 rape crisis centers (in 15 states) reported that sexual assault victims had been asked to take the polygraph examination before a police investigation was initiated.
     

  • Worse, 22 rape crisis centers (in 13 states) reported that sexual assault victims had been told that there would be no police investigation if they did not take the polygraph examination.
     

  • As many as 18 rape crisis centers (in 9 states) reported that sexual assault victims were told that they would go to jail if they lied during the polygraph examination.

Not surprisingly, this use of the polygraph examination had a damaging effect on numerous sexual assault investigations, either because victims “failed” the polygraph examination, refused to take it, and/or withdrew their cooperation as a result.  For example, Sloan (1995) documented on the basis of her national survey that:

  • A total of 32 rape crisis centers (in 13 states) reported that sexual assault victims withdrew their cooperation with the police investigation as a result of their experience with the polygraph examination
     

  • Because the victim “failed” or refused to take the polygraph examination, 13 rape crisis centers (in 8 states) reported that the sexual assault charges were dropped.
     

  • 11 rape crisis centers (in 9 states) reported that no investigation was conducted after the sexual assault victim “failed” or refused the polygraph examination.

The researcher even cited at least one instance where the sexual assault victim was actually arrested for “failing” the polygraph examination. 

In addition to all of these concerns about using polygraphs with sexual assault victims, there are similar issues when using a polygraph with suspects in a sexual assault case. This is especially true when the suspect believes that he had permission to engage in sexual activity with the victim.  As a result, he is understandably upset by the victim’s allegations, and may even be extremely emotional.  He certainly does not define his actions as sexual assault, and therefore he may pass a polygraph examination when asked about the facts of the case.

As a result of these concerns, many states have enacted laws such as California’s which prohibit anyone investigating or prosecuting a sex offense from requiring or requesting that the victim submit to a polygraph examination as a prerequisite to filing an accusatory pleading.  In fact, the language of California’s law matches very closely with the language included in VAWA 2005, even though the law has been on the books for over twenty years.  California Penal Code 637.4 reads as follows:

(a)     No state or local government agency involved in the investigation or prosecution of crimes, or any employee thereof, shall require or request any complaining witness, in a case involving the use of force, violence, duress, menace, or threat of great bodily harm in the commission of any sex offense, to submit to a polygraph examination as a prerequisite to filing an accusatory pleading.

(b)     Any person who has been injured by a violator of this section may bring an action against the violator for his actual damages or one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), whichever is greater.

Texas Criminal Code similarly prohibits peace officers from requiring a polygraph examination from a “person who charges or seeks to charge” a variety of sex offenses (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 15.051).  Therefore, VAWA 2005 may not require any legislative, policy, or protocol changes in states with this type of prohibition already on the books.  Law enforcement agencies should consult with legal counsel to see if any additional change is needed.

Other states have made legislative changes to address the issue of polygraphing victims of sexual assault, but fell short of prohibiting the practice as a precondition for investigating the case.  For example, the Kentucky state legislature passed a law this past year as part of an effort to update their standards for polygraphists.  As a result, the law was designed to apply directly to polygraph examiners rather than law enforcement officials.  As reported in the February 4, 2005 SATI e-News, the regulations were drafted by the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, and although they do not forbid the practice of polygraphing victims they impose several criteria that must be met before any such examination is conducted.  These provisions were designed to be consistent with the procedures taught to new polygraph examiners for years, but until that point, polygraph examiners weren’t required to comply with the procedures after certification.  For more information on this Kentucky law, please see that SATI e-news article.

Other agencies and organizations have also taken a practice stand in discouraging or prohibiting the use of polygraph examinations with sexual assault victims.  To illustrate, a multidisciplinary task force in Florida recently adopted a Model Policy (1999) for statewide use.  One of the provisions of that model policy was the following admonition:

“The use of polygraph exams or voice stress tests with victims shall be strongly discouraged and set forth in policy ... such tests should be conducted only under limited circumstances and ... those circumstances ... should be set forth in policy” (Florida Model Policy, 1999, p. 15).

The Model Policy on sexual assault investigation that was recently released by the IACP includes a similar provision, stating that:

“Law enforcement agencies should establish policies to clearly state that officers should not require, offer, or suggest that a victim take a polygraph examination or submit to SCAN or voice stress analysis during the investigation stage” (IACP Concept and Issues Paper, 2005).

Yet in the wake of VAWA 2005, even this type of legislation or model policy will not go far enough to meet the new mandate.  Regardless of the standards imposed on polygraph examiners or admonitions in any model policy, VAWA 2005 clearly states that law enforcement investigators and prosecutors cannot request or require victims of sexual assault to submit to a polygraph examination or other truth telling device as a condition for proceeding with the investigation of the crime.  This will require law enforcement agencies to respond more proactively by implementing written policies and protocols, with the information disseminated in training for officers, detectives, and prosecutors.  This legislative development also provides an excellent opportunity for law enforcement agencies to work cooperatively with victim advocacy organizations such as rape crisis centers to craft appropriate protocols, conduct cross-disciplinary training, and design a structure for responding to any potential violations. 

To further support you in your effort to meet this new requirement, we would therefore recommend that you start with the new Model Policy and supporting Concepts and Issues Paper released by IACP.  They are available at: Investigating Sexual Assaults Concepts and Issues Paper (July 2005), Investigating Sexual Assault Model Policy (May 2005). Three training keys are also available for purchase from the IACP. 

References:

Jordan, F.D. (1996). Sex Crime Investigations: The Complete Investigator’s Handbook.  Boulder Colorado: Palladin Press.

Reid, J.E. & Inbau, F.E. (1977). Truth and Deception: The Polygraph (“Lie Detector”) Technique. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins Co

Sloan, L.M. (1995). Revictimization by polygraph: The practice of polygraphing survivors of sexual assault. Medicine and Law, 14, 255-267.
 

 
 

Featured Resources

 
   
Conference Manual Now Available
If you were unable to attend EVAW International’s recent conference in Baltimore, you can still own the comprehensive conference manual from the Third International Conference on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Stalking. This valuable resource includes powerpoint presentations from dozens of the country’s top experts on topics such as: Advocates and Confidentiality, Prosecuting Sexual Assault Cases with Voluntarily Intoxicated Drug Victims, Courtroom Role Playing, Protecting Child Sexual Assault Victims Caught in the Court System, Law Enforcement Responses to Stalking, and Finding and Getting Grants.  Order now while limited supplies last.
  

Online DNA Training Module:  What Every Officer Should Know
The National Institute of Justice offers an interactive training module with the basics of identification, preservation, and collection of DNA evidence at a crime scene. 
 
Online Forum on Stalking:  Awareness and Best Practices in Victim Services
Dr. David Lisak of the University of Massachusetts-Boston Department of Psychology will hold an online forum about stalking on the OVC website on Friday, January 27, 2006 at 2 p.m. E.T.  Dr. Lisak is an expert on the links between psychological trauma, sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and masculine socialization.  Dr. Lisak was the recipient of EVAW International’s Visionary Award, presented at its International Conference on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Stalking in Baltimore, Maryland, in October of 2005.  Click here for more information.
 
Sexual Assault on Campus:  What Colleges and Universities are Doing About it, National Institute of Justice, December 2005.  Colleges and universities are not always the safe havens they are thought to be; college women are at higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college-bound peers. Yet, many rapes and attempted rapes are unreported, perhaps because for the majority of these crimes, victim and assailant are acquainted. Schools vary widely in how they comply with Federal requirements to report and respond to sexual victimization. These are among the findings from the first major survey of the Nation's colleges and universities to inquire about sexual assault on campus and how schools are reporting and handling the problem. Many schools need guidance on how to comply with Federal requirements to disclose security procedures, report crime data, and ensure victims' rights. Promising practices in prevention, policy, victim support services, and other areas are discussed.  Click here to view study.

 

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