Project Malama Kakou: Hawaii’s Solution for Sexual Assault Evidence Kits
Thousands of sexual assault evidence kits that were not tested for DNA have been held in police department evidence rooms across the United States, often for years. Now, due to the availability of funding, better technologies, and change in best practice standards, and a philosophical shift in how sex crimes are approached, there is a movement nationwide towards the testing of more kits.
Project Mālama Kākou (which means “We Care”) was created as a result of Act 207 (2016) that brought together a multidisciplinary team with the mission of comprehensively resolving this issue in Hawaii. It is a state plan to:
- Test previously untested sexual assault kits and new sexual assault kits;
- Identify the criteria for testing and not testing sexual assault kits and the order of testing;
- Provide active outreach and public notification to ensure that information and services are provided to impacted survivors; and
- Establish a tracking system for sexual assault kits.
Police departments across the State have updated their procedures for the testing of sexual assault kits. Testing will no longer focus solely on individual case investigations but will also be done to assist in the possible identification of suspects across the country.
With funds made available from the Federal Government* and the State, many sexual assault kits that were collected but not tested in the past will be sent for analysis. We are strongly committed to this and to the submission of kits for testing in reported cases in the future.
Some survivors may be concerned about what the testing of kits means for them. Their concerns must be handled with sensitivity and care. To address this need, Project Mālama Kākou has developed a sensitive and supportive process for notifying survivors of any positive outcomes from testing. Trained professionals will be available to talk with survivors either over the phone, via e-mail, or in person.
If you think you have an untested kit and would like further information, please email Project Mālama Kākou.
We want you to know that the Department of the Attorney General, police, prosecutors, and sexual assault service providers care deeply about resolving the issue of kit testing in Hawaii and will do everything needed to further strengthen and improve our State’s response to sexual assault.
*The Department of the Attorney General applied for and received a FY 2016 National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance. The 3-year, $2 million grant will be used to support the efforts of the Hawaii Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Team, a multi-disciplinary group, to engage in comprehensive reform of Hawaii’s approach to sexual assault cases, including the testing of previously unsubmitted sexual assault evidence kits.