Cutler Institute

Cutler Researchers Help to Understand and Improve Maine's Criminal justice Response to Survivors of Sexual assault

Maine SAK Study

The Cutler Institute recently released the Maine Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Study Report. This report was produced for the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MECASA), with funding in part from a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program, through the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Researchers employed a mixed-methods approach to gathering comprehensive data about the current status of sexual assault kits in Maine; the challenges and successes of processing and storing kits in Maine; and nationally recognized best practices.

Findings from this research confirm that Maine has achieved key successes in the management of sexual assault kits, specifically the provision of victim-centered, trauma-informed care, in addition to standardized, accredited practices, and dedicated resources at the Maine State Police Crime Lab. However, Maine also lacks a consistent, cohesive multidisciplinary management plan for kits, once they are collected. There is also a lack of clarity, communication, and understanding about decision-making involving SAKs being sent to the crime lab for analysis, in addition to a lack of guidance in retention, storage, and decision-making for disposal of SAKs. Based on these findings, the researchers provided ten recommendations.

In January 2019, researchers from the Cutler Institute provided legislative testimony to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee of the State of Maine Legislature regarding the study. Pending legislation relevant to the study includes:

  • LD 67 -An Act to Ensure Access to Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault (sponsored by Senator Herbig)
  • LD 396 -An Act To Support Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault by Increasing the Time Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Kits Must Be Stored (sponsored by Representative Maxmin)
  • LD 1140 –An Act to Improve the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Assault Cases (sponsored by Representative Madigan)