A Nearly-Impossible Feat
Would it surprise you to learn that one in every five women and one in every 71 men report being a victim of rape at some point in his or her life? That means if you have an aunt, a sister, a mother and two female friends, one of them is statistically likely to have been a victim. If you ever have been a member of a fraternity, one of your brothers is statistically likely to have been a victim. Would it further surprise you to learn that, among both men and women, one in every 20 reports being a victim of some other form of sexual violence?
It is for all of the above reasons that in April 2016 the Kentucky General Assembly adopted Senate Bill 63, legislation that brought forth numerous statutory changes affecting law enforcement, health care, forensic processing and victim’s advocacy throughout our commonwealth. As of Jan. 1, every law enforcement agency in Kentucky that receives money from the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund adopted a sexual-assault response policy under the provisions of this legislation. These policies are step one in changing the way we respond to sexual assault in Kentucky.
Step two involves changing the way we train our men and women of law enforcement to think about and respond to sexual assaults. The Department of Criminal Justice Training has developed an entirely new curriculum, which marries traditional investigation skills with a more victim-centered approach.
This training will be offered to law enforcement professionals 19 times between now and January 2019. By that date, every law enforcement agency in Kentucky is required to have a statutorily-designated number of officers trained under this new curriculum. Given the rapid and professional response we saw from law enforcement agencies when called upon to adopt the new sexual-assault response policies, DOCJT harbors no doubt the training requirement will be met with equal fervor.
“I am exceedingly proud of our staff, who met this responsibility with the professionalism and diligence this important issue deserved,” DOCJT Commissioner Mark Filburn said about the efforts made to ensure compliance with the new policy mandates. “The nearly-impossible feat of assisting every law enforcement agency across the commonwealth with meeting such a tight deadline – and succeeding – is just another example of how committed DOCJT’s staff is to our clients.”
The success of this “nearly-impossible feat” surely is a testament to the partnership DOCJT shares with our law enforcement brothers and sisters, and to the respect each side of that partnership holds for the victims’ advocacy community.
“Senate Bill 63 was passed to improve the criminal justice response to victims of sexual assault,” said Eileen Recktenwald, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, and co-chair of the SART Advisory Committee. “Now that law enforcement agencies in Kentucky have policies in place that ensure a trauma-informed approach to the investigation of this crime, it could mean that lifelong consequences for the victim can be decreased, and it increases the possibility that more cases are cleared and successfully prosecuted, making Kentucky a safer place to live.”
Henry Ford once noted, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Law enforcement agencies, law enforcement training and victims’ advocacy have demonstrated a solid resolve to move forward together in the work of bringing sexual assault into the light, so that we may scrutinize our process and refine our service to the victims of this horrible crime. Given this forward momentum, we are confident that, together, we can make Kentucky a leader in professional, victim centered sexual assault response.