Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI)

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Sexual crimes have a devastating and long-term impact on individuals and families. An assault can be traumatizing and result in a range of acute and chronic mental health problems, physical injuries, pregnancy, and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) to victims.

In an effort to raise public awareness about sexual crimes and emphasize the importance of receiving a medical forensic exam following an assault, a coordinated team of experts from the City of Phoenix, Maricopa County Prosecutor's Office, and HonorHealth (including sex crimes investigators, forensic nurse examiners, forensic scientists, prosecutors, and victim advocates) have contributed their expertise and guidance in developing this webpage.

It is with hope that victims and the community at large, find this information educational and helpful. The intention is to provide a guideline of coordinated practices and resources that may be used following a sexual assault.

Throughout this webpage, the umbrella term “sexual assault" is used to encompass a number of sexual crimes and offenses as defined in the State of Arizona. To reference, please see: A.R.S. §§ 13-1401, 13-1404, 13-1405, 13-1406, 13-1407, 13-1409, 13-1410, 13-1423, 13-702, 13-702-706, 13-703, 13-704, 13-705, and 13-706. 


Federal Disclaimer​

SAKI Grant No. 2016-AK-BX-K001. This Website is funded in whole or in part through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this Website (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructures, and policies, and any services or tools provided).   ​

Sexual Crimes and Offenses

Sexual assault is when a person regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation, is forced, coerced, and/or manipulated into any unwanted sexual activity. Including when unable to consent due to age, illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or illegal substances. A person that intentionally engages in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact without consent is sexual assault.

Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity where perpetrators use force, make threats, or take advantage of victims that are not able to gi​ve consent. A person that intentionally engages in sexual contact with a person without consent is sexual abuse. 

As previously noted, “sexual assault” is the umbrella term used throughout this webpage that includes various types of sexual crimes and offenses including, but not limited to rape, incest, child molestation, ritual abuse, date and acquaintance rape, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, sexual exploitation, sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure, and voyeurism.


What is Consent?

In Arizona, the minimum age a person can give consent is 18 years old (A.R.S. § 3-1405).

Consent is when a person gives permission for sexual activity to occur. For sexual intercourse or sexual contact to be consensual, everyone involved needs to be in agreeance to what they are doing. 

Sexual activity may begin as consensual however, permission can be withdrawn. If a partner refuses to stop when asked to stop, further acts of sexual activity become criminal. 

Drugs and alcohol use can prevent clear consent from being given. When a person is incapacitated or unable to distinctively comprehend the sexual nature of the conduct, or is incapable of exercising the right to refuse sexual activity with the other person, the act of sexual activity by the perpetrator is sexual assault.


What to do if Sexually Assaulted and/or Seeking Help

Immediately call 9-1-1. Law enforcement will be dispatched, respond to the report, and conduct a thorough investigation. If the victim feels uncomfortable calling law enforcement, the victim can call the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Hotline. It is available 24/7, and the victim can speak confidentially with a victim advocate about the assault, options, and available resources, from anywhere in the United States. 

The victim can also contact a local victim service provider to request assistance and schedule a medical forensic exam, such as with the Phoenix Family Advocacy Center or HonorHealth.

RAINN – National Sexual Assault Hotline 

Available 24/7

1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Phoenix Family Advocacy Center 

Available Monday – Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

602-534-2120

HonorHealth

Open 24 Hours

480-312-6339​

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement is often the first responder when a sexual assault case has been reported to police. When law enforcement arrives to the crime scene, they first address the immediate concern of the victim, including safety and if medical care is required. They will also conduct the initial interview with the victim to gather facts about the assault, obtain victim information, and collect evidence from the crime scene.

Often, law enforcement is the first to explain to the victim the importance and benefits of a medical forensic exam. Additionally, they advise the victim about the right to receive the exam even if they elect not to participate in the criminal justice process, and that neither the victim nor their insurance can be billed for the exam.

Law enforcement will also transport the victim to a local health care facility if the victim agrees to the exam. If a medical practitioner is not available at the time of arrival, law enforcement will then transport the victim to a hospital. If the victim elects not to have law enforcement transport them to the health care facility or hospital, a friend or family member can drive the victim using a private vehicle.

A.R.S. §13-3806

If a victim has suffered a gunshot wound, knife wound, or other physical injury, the attending medical practitioner must report the incident to law enforcement. The victim, however, can retain the right to decline to speak with law enforcement, except under mandatory reporting requirements where a child may be the victim of an assault. To learn more about mandatory reporting requirements, go to https://dcs.az.gov/report-child-abuse.​

What is a Sex Crimes Evidence Kit (SCEK)?

In Arizona, a Sex Crimes Evidence Kit (SCEK) is the standard kit that is used statewide for the collection of evidence during a medical forensic exam. The SCEK will not be destroyed regardless of lab results, unless the allegation was “unfounded”, meaning the evidence proved the crime was not committed. 

All evidence found from SCEKs may be used in future cases regardless of the outcome of the initial sexual assault investigation. All evidence in a sexual assault case must be retained by the investigating agency pursuant to A.R.S. §13-4221.

What is a Medical Forensic Exam?

A medical forensic exam is a resource that is available to all sexual assault victims regardless of age, race, gender or sexual orientation. It is a thorough evaluation of the body to assess injury and infection, and to provide immediate medical care and treatment. Including medical referrals if needed for emergency contraception, and/or vaccines for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B, and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). 

An informed consent for the exam, both verbally and in writing must be obtained by the victim, with the exam preferably performed immediately following the assault, or within 120 hours or five (5) days after the assault.

The preferred medical practitioners who conduct the exams are Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE). They are specifically educated and clinically trained examiners with the primary responsibility of addressing the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of the victim after an assault. They are also trained in the collection and preservation of forensic evidence that may be used in a criminal investigation.

There is no cost for the exam or for the collection of evidence, and the victim nor their insurance can be billed for either process. Under Arizona law, medical providers are prohibited from billing victims or their insurance for the cost of a medical forensic exam (A.R.S. §13-1414). 

Under the provision of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2005, all states must ensure that all victims of sexual assault have access to a medical forensic exam, even if the victim chooses not to report the assault to law enforcement. These non-reported cases afford victims access to medical care and counseling support while allowing important evidence to be collected.  

More on the Forensic Medical Exam

Prior to a medical forensic exam, victims should try to avoid activities that can damage evidence such as bathing, showering, using the restroom, changing clothes, and/or combing one’s hair.

However, if any of these activities have occurred, a medical forensic exam can still be performed. It is recommended for the victim to place all items including belongings and clothing that were worn at the time of the assault in paper bags to help preserve evidence. The bags should be provided to the medical practitioner from the attending health care facility or hospital prior to the exam. The victim will receive authorization forms requiring the victim’s approval to have the bagged contents collected and analyzed, with evidence released to law enforcement.

Non-Reported Evidence

In cases where the victim chooses not to report the assault to law enforcement, but does agree on receiving a medical forensic exam; the non-reported evidence will be stored in accordance under the national practice of one (1) year. 

Every assault is different and there is no one typical reaction or behavioral norm from victims following an assault. The one-year timeframe allows the victim the opportunity to regain oneself prior to reporting the assault. Sexual assault is a traumatic experience and often can impact a victim’s emotional reaction and memory following the incident, causing the victim to be unable to provide law enforcement with a full account of the assault. 

What Evidence is Collected and Analyzed?

During the medical forensic exam, the medical practitioner will collect a DNA sample from the victim, either cells from the mouth or blood in a blood tube that will be used as a reference standard to identify the victim following a DNA analysis. They may also collect body surface, anal, genital, penile and vaginal swabs, and debris or foreign material that may be found on the victim’s body. These forensic samples are collected based on the scenario of the assault. 

Urine samples and/or blood tubes are also collected if the use of alcohol or illegal substances are reported or suspected. The medical practitioner then places all swabs, including clothing worn by the victim in individual bags, and documents and photographs all findings such as cuts, abrasions and lacerations.

DNA Analysis

DNA analysis is an analytical process that allows for the testing of forensic evidence, SCEKs, and other crime scene items to develop DNA profiles that can inform a criminal investigation. If a DNA profile is developed, it is compared to DNA profiles from submitted reference standards, such as victims, suspects, or consensual sex partners to determine whether they are a possible contributor of the DNA profile. 

There are 4 steps to DNA testing:

1. Extraction (Normal and Differential): Extraction removes the DNA from the substrate.

2. Quantitation: The amount of DNA present in any sample is quantified to determine how much DNA is present.

3. Amplification: Copies of the DNA are made to provide a sufficient amount of DNA for instrumental analysis.  

4. Typing: Genetic analyzers will be used to complete the DNA testing.

Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)

Eligible DNA profiles are then entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) that is supplied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to support the criminal justice DNA database used at a national, state, and local level to store and search DNA profiles contributed by crime laboratories. CODIS can link DNA evidence obtained from crime scenes, and compare crime scene evidence to database profiles, thereby identifying serial criminals or possible sexual perpetrators. 

For a DNA profile to be eligible for CODIS, it must meet three major requirements:

1. There must be documentation that a crime was committed.

2. The DNA sample was recovered directly from the SCEK or other crime scene evidence.  

3. The non-victim DNA profile is attributable to the alleged perpetrator. And if applicable, an elimination sample will be requested from a consensual partner.

Elimination samples are needed in sexual assault cases when victims indicate they have engaged in consensual sexual relations within close proximity to the sexual assault. The elimination sample will not have an impact on the collection of the SCEK from the victim, nor the testing process to develop the DNA profile from the sexual assault evidence. 

If a CODIS hit should occur with the entered DNA profile, it is considered an investigative lead that requires additional testing by qualified forensic scientists and confirmation from law enforcement. 

Following, if a reference sample is needed from the suspect that is identified through the CODIS hit, law enforcement will locate and interview the suspect, as well as obtain a court order to identify the physical characteristics of the suspect, and/or a search warrant to collect a DNA sample. 

CODIS is an integral system that is used for data analysis of forensic evidence. Not only does it provide leads to sexual perpetrators, but also links cases within a state and across the nation. It is also beneficial in excluding potential suspects, reducing wrongful arrests, and assisting in the exoneration of wrongfully convicted people.

Victim Privacy and Confidentiality

To protect the privacy and confidentiality of the victim, data entry and sensitive information are limited to those who are directly involved in the case and working directly with the victim pursuant to A.R.S. §§13-4430 and 8-409 (privileged info), and 13-4434 and 8-413 (victim privacy).

Victim Advocacy

The role of the victim advocate is to assist the victim in understanding their rights and options following an assault.

Sometimes, a survivor may not feel comfortable speaking to a family member or friend about the incident. A specialized victim advocate who is well-versed in trauma, grief, and traumatic stress can help the victim build trust and rapport.

The advocate is available to refer the victim to local resources and help them understand the criminal justice system. They can connect the victim to organizations offering legal relief, support groups, emergency shelters and counseling. Advocates can also attend court hearings and assist victims with asserting Victim's Rights throughout the prosecution process.

Advocates can also refer victims to the Crime Victim Compensation Program and Address Confidentiality Program. The Crime Victim Compensation Program provides financial assistance to victims who may have experienced a financial loss as a direct result of the sexual assault; such as expenses for physical harm, mental distress, and economic loss resulting from the crime. The Address Confidentiality Program helps victims from being located by the perpetrator through public records. It provides a legal substitute address and confidential mailing services to the victim and their families.

Neurobiology of Sexual Assault

Victims of sexual assault often experience a violation of safety and loss of control. This distress can be exhibited in what may seem like counterintuitive behavior. Responses may include a flight, fight or freeze reaction resulting from a neurochemical release. Understanding these behaviors is integral to decreasing the risk of re-traumatization of a sexual assault.

Sexual assault victims may react to a traumatic incident in many ways. A victim may experience physical symptoms or stress reactions like exhaustion, inability to sleep, headaches, and muscle tension. Additionally, feelings of shame, embarrassment, fear, anger, and betrayal are common after sexual assault, and can exacerbate feelings of mistrust.

It is also important to note that a victim may not want anyone to know about the assault and may be afraid that family members or friends may reject them, or fear further harm or harassment from the perpetrator.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

Sexual violence is among the most common causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, serious accidents, or violent personal crimes such as sexual assault. People who suffer PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, suffer from intrusive thoughts, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged. ​

Does the Victim's Age Matter when Sexually Assaulted?

A victim's age does not matter. It is a crime to engage in sexual activity with anyone who does not consent, or cannot consent, such as a child or person who lacks mental capacity, including someone who is intoxicated. 

However, there are tougher penalties for sexual assault offenders whose victims are under the age of 15. Penalties depend on the age of the victim, age of the perpetrator, prior felony convictions, and other criminal circumstances.​

Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Underage Victims

Under Arizona law (A.R.S. § 13-3620.A), any person that has the responsibility of caring for a child or minor under the age of 18, and has observed or examined the individual and has reason to believe they are a victim of sexual assault, must report the information to law enforcement or the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS). To learn more about mandatory reporting requirements, visit the DCS website. 

Department of Child Safety (Child Abuse Hotline) 

1-888-767-2445/1-888-SOS-CHILD

Reporting Sexual Assault of Elderly and Disabled People

Similarly, if one suspects or has the reason to believe that an elderly or disabled person is the victim of sexual assault, they should report the information to law enforcement or Adult Protective Services.

Vulnerable elders and disabled people are often unable to protect themselves because of medical or health conditions, and physical or mental impairments; and often lack the understanding or capacity to report an assault. 

Under Arizona law, it is a crime when a victim is unable to distinctively comprehend the sexual nature of the conduct, or is incapable of understanding or exercising the right to refuse to engage in sexual conduct with another person (A.R.S. § 13-1401). 

Remember, a report should be made when any person reasonably believes there is suspected sexual assault regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. A report is only a request for an investigation. The person making the report does not need to prove the assault or abuse. The investigation process and validation reports are the responsibility of law enforcement and protective service workers.

Adult Protective Services 

1-877-767-2445/ 1-877-SOS-ADULT

Area Agency on Aging 

24-hour Senior HELPLINE 

​602-264-HELP (4357)

​About the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI)

The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). It provides funding through a competitive grant process to support multidisciplinary teams engaged in the reform of jurisdictional approaches to sexual assault cases resulting from evidence found in previously unsubmitted SCEKs and in need of DNA analysis. 

The goal of BJA, is to create a coordinated response to ensure resolution to sexual assault cases, whenever possible, through a victim-centered approach, and to build jurisdictions that will prevent the conditions that can lead to high numbers of unsubmitted SCEKs in the future. 

Inventory of SCEKs 

In 2016, SAKI awarded the PPD a grant in the amount of $1.5 million to inventory, submit, and test all unsubmitted SCEKs in inventory.  

Prior to Year 2000, PPD had only hard copies of data from impounded SCEKs that were in inventory, requiring a coordinated effort in collecting the information. Therefore, a team of staff was established and tasked with physically counting each SCEK and verifying those in need of DNA testing. 

This team was also tasked with developing a new records management system (RMS) that could upload the collection of the SCEK data, and code and track each kit. By the end of 2015, the team completed counting and the data entry process of all inventoried SCEKs. 

Following in Year 2016, when the SAKI grant was awarded, the PPD immediately established a sexual assault multidisciplinary working group consisting of forensic scientists, sex crimes investigators, forensic nurse examiners, attorneys, and victim advocates. 

The primary goal of the group was to develop a testing process for the previously unsubmitted SCEKs that were in inventory, and investigate each case utilizing a victim-centered approach. The group also revised policies and procedures to implement a “test all” requirement ensuring that all new SCEKs that were collected in conjunction with a criminal investigation, were submitted to a laboratory for DNA testing. 

To date, the group’s efforts have enacted a systemic change, with added programmatic activities that include sexual assault training, investigations, evidence processing, and public education on ​sexual assault. To learn more about SAKI, visits https://sakitt​a.org/​

Governor Ducey Signs Bill to Achieve Justice for Sexual Assault Victims​

Arizona's Sexual Assault Laws

​​A number of different offenses fall into the sex crimes category, but they generally involve illegal or coerced sexual conduct against another individual. Every state has laws against prohibiting various types of sex crimes, and each state has its own time limit (or “statute of limitations") in which victims of sex assault crimes may file a lawsuit against the alleged perpetrator. People convicted of sex crimes, regardless of the severity, are considered “sex offenders" by their respective state and face having their names added to state and federal sex offender registries.

The following table is an example of the main provisions of Arizona's sexual assault laws. To learn more about sexual assault laws in Arizona, go to: https://www​.rainn.org/laws-your-state-arizona.


Code Sections

A.R.S. §§ 13-1404  - 13-1428

Elements Sexual Assault

Having sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with another person without their consent.

Aggravated Circumstances

Date rape drug used: additional three (3) years added to sentence.

If defendant caused an intentional infliction of "serious physical injury" to the victim during the crime, sentence can become 25 years to life in prison.

Mandatory Sex Registration?

Yes, defendant will have to register for life as a sex offende​r.

Punishment

Class two (2) felony, up to 14 years in prison. If the defendant has a prior felony sexual assault conviction up to 21 years in prison. If two (2) or more prior convictions, up to 28 years in prison.

When does a person "lack consent?"

​​The victim is coerced by reason of a mental disorder, defect, drugs, alcohol or any other similar impairment;
The victim is intentionally deceived as to the nature of the act;
The victim is intentionally deceived to erroneously believe that the person is the victim's spouse.​​​


Federal Disclaimer​

​SAKI Grant No. 2016-AK-BX-K001. This Website is funded in whole or in part through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this Website (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructures, and policies, and any services or tools provided).   ​


What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault occurs whenever a person is forced, coerced, and/or manipulated into any unwanted sexual activity, including when she/he is unable to consent due to age, illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs. 

Sexual abuse is when a person looks at, takes pictures, or touches you on your private body parts without your permission, or forces you to touch them on their private body parts without your permission. Private body parts are: breast, vagina, penis, anus, buttocks and mouth.

Sexual assault includes rape, incest, child sexual assault, ritual abuse, date and acquaintance rape, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, sexual exploitation, sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure, and voyeurism.

What is Consent?

Consent is permission for sexual activity to occur. For sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact to be consensual, everyone involved has to agree to what they are doing. Without consent, the sexual activity is rape.

Asking for consent should continue throughout the activity and should be specific. Drugs and alcohol use prevents clear consent from being given. Don't assume a partner is ok with what you want to do. Always ask them. “Yes" means “yes". The absence of a “no" does not mean “yes". Consent brings both pleasure and safety to the interaction.

 

What Should I do if I am Sexually Assaulted?

Immediately call 911

Law enforcement will be dispatched, respond to your report, and conduct a thorough investigation utilizing a fair and trauma-informed approach.

If you do not feel comfortable calling law enforcement, you can call the RAINN – National Sexual Assault Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-656-4673 and speak with someone confidentially about your situation, the assault, and your options.


 

RAINN – National Sexual Assault Hotline – Available 24/7 
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

You can also contact a local victim service provider and request a medical forensic exam. The Phoenix Family Advocacy Center is able to assist you, Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm. You can call 602-534-2120 and speak to a Victim Advocate.

Phoenix Family Advocacy Center – Available Monday-Friday: 8:00am to 5:00pm
602-534-2120​
 

What is a Medical Forensic Exam?

A medical forensic exam is a resource that is provided to all sexual assault victims including those that choose not report the assault to law enforcement. Under the provision of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2005, all states must ensure that all victims of sexual assault have access to a medical forensic exam, free of charge, even if the victim chooses not to report the crime to law enforcement.

An informed consent, both verbally and in writing must be obtained by the victim prior to a medical forensic exam, and should be performed within 120 hours following the assault.

There is no cost for the medical forensic exam, and the victim's insurance cannot be billed. Medical providers are prohibited from billing victims for the cost of an exam following a sexual assault.

Arizona uses a standard Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) statewide for the collection of evidence in a medical forensic exam.

Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE) are the preferred medical practitioners for adult and adolescent medical exams. The primary responsibili​​ty of the practitioner is to address the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of the victim resulting from an assault.

a. What are my rights with regard to the medical forensic exam?

Under Arizona law, the decision to report a sexual assault to law enforcement is the victim's decision. The victim has the right to speak to law enforcement except when a child may be the victim of physical or sexual abuse or neglect. If a victim has suffered a gunshot wound, knife wound or other material injury, the medical practitioner must provide a report to law enforcement.

Medical forensic exams are free of charge, even if the victim chooses not to report the crime to law enforcement. These non-reported kits afford victims access to medical care and allows important evidence to be collected, without the victim immediately deciding to report the assault to law enforcement.

It is the victim's choice on whether or not they want to participate in the criminal justice system. ​

b.  What evidence is collected?

During the medical forensic exam, the medical practitioner will collect a reference sample from the victim, either cells from the mouth or blood in a blood tube. They will collect body surface, anal, genital, penile and vaginal swabs, and debris or foreign material that may be found on the victim's body. Additional samples may be collected based on the scenario of the assault. Urine samples are also collected if the use of alcohol or illegal substances are reported by the victim. The medical practitioner then places all swabs and clothing worn by the victim in individual bags, and documents and photographs all findings including any cuts, abrasions and lacerations.

Following the exam, medical treatment and medical referrals may be provided such as for emergency contraception, HIV, and vaccines for Hepatitis B and the Human Papilloma Virus. Information on whom to contact for victim advocacy may also be provided.

If the victim needs to be transported and admitted to a hospital, the medical practitioner will inform the hospital about the need to collect a Sexual Assault Kit (SAK).

 

What happens to the evidence?

The medical practitioner will notify law enforcement of the completed Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) and medical report within 48 hours. Law enforcement will collect and impound the kit within 5 business days of being notified. Law enforcement will then submit the kit to the Phoenix Crime Laboratory within 15 business days.

i. CODIS – Combined DNA Index System

Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs) are processed by a crime laboratory in order to generate a DNA profile from the crime scene evidence for the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

CODIS is the system of DNA databases at the national, state, and local level for storing and searching DNA records contributed by crime laboratories for criminal identification purposes. If a hit (DNA match) occurs, the name of the suspected perpetrator will be given to law enforcement.

In addition to identifying a suspected perpetrator, a CODIS hit is beneficial for excluding potential suspects, reducing wrongful arrests, assisting in the exoneration of wrongfully convicted people, and linking cases within a state and across the nation. 

The Phoenix Police Department Crime Laboratory follows the Quality Assurance Standards (QAS) and accreditation standards for reporting and reviewing results. The laboratory provides copies of reports to only approved criminal justice agencies (not victims). The laboratory may also utilize the services of private DNA laboratories to complete DNA testing of SAKs. All analytical documentation and reports undergo a technical and administrative review process per the Quality Assurance Standards (QAS).

ii.  Evidence Retention

Evidence may be used in future cases regardless of the outcome of the investigation. Therefore, all evidence in sexual assault cases are retained by law enforcement.

 

Law Enforcement

All victims of sexual assault will be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.

Law enforcement is often the first responder to cases of sexual assault. They are trained on the impact of trauma, dynamics of victimization, and how to ask questions based on the assault. 

Upon first contact with law enforcement, efforts will be made to help the victim feel safe. Additional safety planning may be necessary and intervention may be in the form of an emergency referral and counseling or other services as needed. Law enforcement will also help guide the victim in helping her/him to understand the role of the victim advocate and assistance the victim will receive throughout the criminal justice process.

Investigations typically include both an initial victim interview in the response phase, and an in-depth interview in the investigative phase.

Law enforcement will conduct the initial interview with the victim. The interview will allow the victim to give information in an uninterrupted location. The purpose of the initial interview is to gather facts, obtain victim information, ask about what happened, and if immediate safety is of concern.

If the assault occurred within 120 hours, law enforcement will ask the victim if she/he is willing to receive a medical forensic exam.

If the victim is willing, she/he will be transported to a local advocacy center for the exam. If a medical practitioner is not available, the first responder will then transport the victim to a hospital.

If evidence needs to be collected from the perpetrator, a court order or search warrant will be acquired. DNA from the consensual sex partner must be obtained as well.

An on-call prosecutor will be contacted if an arrest is imminent, or if the case involves multiple victims or serious injury. 

Law enforcement will collect and impound the completed Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) from the medical practitioner within 5 business days and thereafter, submit the Sexual Assault Kit to the Phoenix Crime Laboratory within 15 days. 

All kits are assigned an identifying category to ensure proper tracking and reporting throughout the entire process from issuance, to the medical forensic examiner or hospital, to the responding law enforcement agency, through the crime laboratory, and final disposition and/or storage.

Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs) will not be destroyed regardless of lab results unless the allegation is “unfounded", meaning evidence proves the crime did not occur. 

Evidence may be used in future cases, therefore all evidence in sexual assault cases must be retained by the investigating agency pursuant to A.R.S.13-4220. 

Victim Notification

​Law enforcement works with victim advocates and prosecutors to ensure victims receive a victim-centered and trauma-informed notification if a CODIS hit occurs. They provide the victim with information about the status of their case and who they can contact with questions and concerns. They will protect the privacy and confidentiality of the victim, and provide support and resource information.

 

Victim Advocacy and Victim-Centered Care

The role of the victim advocate is to assist the victim with understanding their rights and options following an assault. Sometimes, a survivor might not feel comfortable speaking to family or friends about the assault. A victim advocate is there to believe, support, and refer the victim to helpful local resources and to help the victim navigate the criminal justice system. They can also connect the victim to organizations offering legal relief, support groups, emergency shelter or counseling. Advocates are also available to attend court hearings and can assist with asserting Victim's Rights throughout the process. Victims may be eligible for programs such as the Crime Victims Compensation and Address Confidentiality Programs.

The Crime Victims Compensation Program provides financial assistance to victims who may have experienced a financial loss as a direct result of the sexual assault, such as expenses for physical harm, mental distress, and economic loss resulting from the assault. This Address Confidentiality Program helps victims from being located by the perpetrator through public records. It provides a substitute address and confidential mailing services to the victim and their families.

Victim advocates and law enforcement often work together to notify the victim of the status of their case. They use a trauma-sensitive, victim notification process to help foster trust and collaboration while the victim is participating in the criminal justice system.

A specialized victim advocate who is well-versed in trauma, grief, and traumatic stress will engage with the victim to build trust and rapport. Victims are more likely to participate in the prosecution process when a victim advocate is with them to provide support and explain the process.

Victim-Centered Care

Law enforcement and victim advocates will respond to victims disclosing sexual assault in a timely, appropriate, sensitive and respectful manner. Every action that is taken during the medical exam and investigative phase to facilitate the victim with immediate care and safety assistance. 

While at the Phoenix Family Advocacy Center, they will: ​

    • Give sexual assault patients priority as emergency cases and ensure patient privacy.
    • Adapt the exam process as needed to address the unique needs of each patient.
    • Are aware of issues faced by victims of specific populations, and provide culturally sensitive care.
    • Prior to starting the exam, explain to the patient in a language the patient can understand and what is entailed during the exam.
    • Address patient safety during the exam.
    • Accommodate the patients' requests throughout the exam.
    • [KO2] Provide information that is easy for patients to understand and in the patient's language.
    • Address physical discomfort needs of the patient prior to a medical discharge.
    • Address the importance of victim services that are available.

 

Victim Privacy

To protect victim privacy, data entry and sensitive information will be limited to those who are directly involved in the case and working directly with the victim. Agency policy correlates with A.R.S. §§13-4430 and 8-409 (privileged info) and 13-4434 and 8-413 (victim privacy).


 

​Neurobiology of Sexual Assault

Victims of sexual assault often experience a violation of safety and loss of control. This distress can be exhibited in what may seem like inter-counter-intuitive behaviors. Responses may include a flight, fight or freeze reaction resulting from a neurochemical release. Understanding these behaviors is integral to decreasing the risk of re-traumatization of sexual assault.​

Sexual assault victims may react to a traumatic incident in many different ways. A victim may experience physical symptoms or stress reactions like exhaustion, inability to sleep, headaches, and muscle tension. Additionally, feelings of shame, embarrassment, fear, anger, and betrayal are common after sexual assault, and can exacerbate feelings of mistrust for the victim. A victim can experience trauma symptoms during and after the assault which may affect them during the forensic medical exam process. It is important to note that a victim may not want anyone to know about the assault, or may be afraid that family members or friends will reject them. It is also common for a victim to fear further harm or harassment from the assailant.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Sexual violence is also among the most common causes of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) disorder. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults such as sexual assault. People who suffer PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, suffer from intrusive thoughts, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged.

 

Cold Cases

Specific to the Phoenix Police Department, a Cold Case is defined as any case that is not actively being investigated and has remained unsolved for one (1) or more years after it was reported to law enforcement.

 

About the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI)

The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and provides funding through a competitive grant process to support multidisciplinary teams engaged in the reform of jurisdictional approaches to sexual assault cases resulting from evidence found in previously unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs). Unsubmitted kits that have not been submitted to a forensic laboratory for testing and analysis is the focus of this initiative.​

Goal

The goal of the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative is the creation of a coordinated response to ensure resolution to sexual assault cases, whenever possible, through a victim-centered approach, and to build jurisdictions that will prevent the conditions that lead to high numbers of unsubmitted SAKs in the future. ​

This holistic approach provides jurisdictions with resources to address the issue of unsubmitted kits, including support to inventory, testing, and tracking of kits; creating and reporting performance metrics; accessing necessary training to increase effectiveness in addressing the complex issues associated with these cases and engaging in policy development and coordination; improving practices related to investigation, prosecution, victim engagement and support; and in creating a victim and community outreach program to educate victims and the community at large about sexual assault.

Inventory of Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs)

In 2016, the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) awarded the Phoenix Police Department a grant in the amount of $1.5 million to inventory, submit, and test backlogged Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs); as well as to implement initiatives involving training, investigations, evidence processing, and public outreach.

Prior to Year 2000, data was only available through hardcopy and required a physical inventory to capture the untested SAKs in the Phoenix Police Department's possession that were impounded prior to 2000.

A team of staff was established to identify and conduct that exact physical inventory of all untested SAKs in the Phoenix Police Department's evidence warehouse.

This team was tasked with hand counting each untested kit to obtain a precise number from 2000-2015. Followed by developing and implementing a new records management system (RMS) to track each new sexual assault kit impounded by law enforcement. Their efforts commenced prior to the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant that was awarded in 2016.

Following the award, a Phoenix Police Department sexual assault multidisciplinary working group was established consisting of forensic scientists, sex crimes investigators, forensic nurse examiners, attorneys, and victim advocates. They addressed the untested SAKs in possession and developed a victim-centered approach to investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults. They also revised policies and procedures to address the implementation of a “test all" requirement to ensure that all kits are submitted for DNA testing.

Through added routine monthly meetings, the responsibilities of this working group have enacted systemic change with added programmatic activities to meet the criteria of the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. 

This multidisciplinary working group continues its efforts in:

  • Eliminating the existing number of untested SAKs and preventing this issue from reoccurring through necessary changes in practice, protocol and organizational culture.
  • Improving training amongst group members, so all disciplines are prepared to respond to the evidence in a victim-centered manner with improved quality of response.
  • Establishing and implementing an evidence based approach, victim-centered protocols and policies that address SAK evidence collection, testing, and tracking as well as victim notification and support services.
  • Identifying and allocating the resources that are required to produce and follow up on all of the usable evidence results.
  • Establishing and implementing processes that prioritize the investigation and adjudication of sexual assault cases.
  • Enhancing the evidence tracking, case management and victim notification mechanisms to ensure accountability, transparency and information sharing among all partners.
  • Leveraging the data gathered from testing to improve the understanding of the sexual assault problem in the community in order to create needed policy and programmatic interventions.
  • Strengthening advocacy resources within the Phoenix Police Department with respect to sexual assault cases.
  • Developing a victim/community outreach program to educate the community at large about sexual assault, the medical forensic exam process, participation with law enforcement, DNA testing, and availability of victim-centered services and support programs. 

Governor Ducey Signs Bill to Achieve Justice for Sexual Assault Victims​


Arizona's Sexual Assault Laws
​Does it matter how old the victim was the time of the incident?

Yes, if the “victim" was under age 15, there are tougher penalties and sanctions in place including longer prison sentences including life in prison without possibility of parole or probation until after serving 35 years.

 

Sexual assault will land the offender in prison and likely on the Arizona Sex Offender Registry.

 

The following table highlights the main provisions of Arizona's sexual assault laws.

 

Code Sections ARS 13-1406 et seq.
Elements Sexual Assault Having sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with another person without their consent.
Aggravated Circumstances

Date rape drug used: additional three (3) years added to sentence.

If defendant caused an intentional infliction of "serious physical injury" to the victim during the crime, sentence can become 25 years to life in prison.

Mandatory Sex Registration? Yes, defendant will have to register for life as a sex offender.
Punishment Class two (2) felony, up to 14 years in prison. If the defendant has a prior felony sexual assault conviction up to 21 years in prison. If two (2) or more prior convictions, up to 28 years in prison.
When does a person "lack consent?"
  • The victim is coerced by reason of a mental disorder, defect, drugs, alcohol or any type of impairment; AND that impairment/condition is known or should have reasonably been known to the person accused of the crime;
  • The victim is intentionally deceived as to the nature of the act;
  • The victim is intentionally deceived to erroneously believe that the person is the victim's spouse.




Federal Disclaimer​

SAKI Grant No. 2016-AK-BX-K001. This Website is funded in whole or in part through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this Website (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructures, and policies, and any services or tools provided).   ​​


​​IN AN EMERGENCY CALL 9-1-1

Crime Stop Non-Emergency Phoenix Police: 602-262-6151​

Learn more about sexual assault: 

 ​Victim Resources

Crisis Intervention ​Services

Crisis Response Network (24/7)
602-222-9444 or 1-800-631-1314

Community Bridges (24/7)
1-877-931-9142

Empact Suicide Pre​vention Hotline (24/7)
480-784-1500 or 800-273-8255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7)
1-800-273 TALK (8255)
Spanish: 1-888-628-9454
TTY: 1-800-799-4889​

Local Resources

Phoenix Family Advocacy Center
602-534-2120
Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm

Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence (ACESDV)
602-279-2900
Monday-Friday 8:30am 5:00pm

HonorHealth Forensic Nurse Examiners Program
To request a medical forensic exam without reporting to law enforcement, call (480) 312-6339​

SAFE DVS (Emergency shelter for Victims of Domestic & Sexual Violence) (24/7)
480-890-3039

Department of Child Safety (Child Abuse Hotline)
1-888-767-2445/1-888-SOS-CHILD​

Adult Protective Services
1-877-767-2445/ 1-877-SOS-ADULT

Jail Inmate Information ​(Automated)
602-876-0322

National Resources

RAINN -National Sexual Assault Hotline (24/7)
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

National Domestic Violence Hotline (24/7)
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
TTY: 1-800-787-3224​

National Human Trafficking Hotline (24/7)​
1-888-373-7888
TTY:711

GLBT National Hotline
1-888-843-4564

Trans Lifeli​ne
1-877-565-8860​