As Sexual Assault Awareness Month kicks off, Attorney General Josh Kaul is recognizing survivors of sexual assault and sharing resources available through the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ). According to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, published by the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Information and Analysis (BJIA), 4,601 sexual offenses were reported to law enforcement in Wisconsin in 2020. Knowing that sexual assaults are under -reported, it is likely that the actual number of sexual assaults in Wisconsin in 2020 is much higher.
While it’s important to recognize the importance of statistics, it’s critical to remember that data only tells part of the story. What statistics cannot show is the impact of trauma on a survivor as a result of sexual assault. This trauma can have an emotional, mental and physical impact on survivors.
“The DOJ is committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault,” Attorney General Josh Kaul said. “It is essential that survivors have access to victim services and that criminals who commit sexual assaults are brought to justice.
To support survivors and improve the criminal justice response when a survivor reports an assault, the DOJ is proud to offer the following resources:
Within the DOJ is the Office of Crime Victim Services (OCVS) which houses many resources and programs for victims of crime, their family and friends, victim service providers, and crime professionals. criminal justice. OCVS is at the center of all DOJ efforts to support survivors of sexual assault. The OCVS administers several grant programs that support victims’ access to sexual assault services statewide, including the Sexual Assault Victim Services (SAVS) Grant and the Sexual Assault Service Provider Grant. Sexual Assault Violence Against Women Act (VAWA SASP). Resources from these programs support rape crisis centers; personal, legal and medical advocacy services; 24/7 crisis lines; support groups; and community outreach efforts throughout Wisconsin. The OCVS also administers the Wisconsin Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) Fund, which directly reimburses health care providers for the cost of a forensic examination for victims of sexual assault, and the Crime Victim Compensation Program, who can help victims in the event of a crime. personal expenses such as lost wages, medical and mental health expenses.
Sexual Assault Kit Reform
In December 2021, Governor Evers signed into law Sexual Assault Kit Reform. The law is intended to ensure that Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs) in Wisconsin are collected and sent to crime labs in the State of Wisconsin in an efficient and timely manner. The Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Response Team (AG SART) played a key role in developing the legislation. Prior to this legislation, there was no clear statutory procedure for the collection and processing of sexual assault kits. This lack of a standard process has contributed to the fact that thousands of kits have not been submitted to the state crime lab for testing until recent efforts by the state and nation. This new law creates procedures that will prevent a backlog in the future.
The SART AG is the originator of the Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (WiSAKI), which is a statewide effort to combat the backlog of unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) in possession of local law enforcement agencies and hospitals.
The DOJ and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA) have partnered to develop By Your Side, a resource created as part of WiSAKI, to help victims of sexual assault know the status of their sexual assault kit and find support services in their community. The services are free and confidential. These Community Sexual Assault Service Providers offer emotional support, information and referrals, no matter how long ago the sexual assault happened. They can answer a phone call, meet a survivor at a hospital for an exam, explain the criminal justice system, and meet basic needs like safe housing or maintaining employment. Services are also available to family members, partners and friends of a survivor who are coping with their own reaction to sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Response Teams
The DOJ offers guidance and support to local communities to develop and maintain a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). A SART can minimize the risk of re-traumatizing a survivor when engaging with the criminal justice system by initiating a collaborative response to provide support, information, options, and resources when survivors engage with the criminal justice system. criminal justice system. The SARTs identified several improvements to survivors’ participation in the criminal justice system, including:
Survivors are more likely to be referred to advocacy services
Survivors are more likely to be referred to medical services
Improvements to Survivor Support in the Criminal Justice System Process
Increase in the number of assaults reported to law enforcement
Survivors more engaged in the investigation
Survivors are more engaged with prosecutors while preparing for court
The response of a trauma-informed SART not only benefits survivors, but also multidisciplinary partners.
Clergy and Religious Leader Abuse Initiative
The DOJ also launched the Clergy and Faith Leader Abuse initiative. The primary goal of this initiative is to provide victims and survivors with an independent and thorough examination of sexual abuse by Wisconsin clergy and religious leaders, regardless of when the abuse occurred. Through this initiative, the DOJ will provide victims and survivors with a safe and confidential way to obtain support from the DOJ’s Office of Crime Victims Services and referrals to available service providers. The initiative also provides a confidential way to:
victims and survivors to report sexual abuse by clergy and religious leaders; and,
others who have witnessed, are aware of or suspect such abuse to report it.
The DOJ will review all reports and refer them, with the victim’s consent, to local law enforcement, if appropriate.
The DOJ continues to collect reports from survivors of abuse by clergy or religious leaders or their friends and family. All are encouraged to report such information to the DOJ online at SupportSurvivors.widoj.gov or by calling 1-877-222-2620.