Kentucky receives $3 million grant to investigate sexual assault cold cases

The federal government has given the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office $3 million to investigate sexual assault cold cases.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will pay for a victim advocate, investigator and prosecutor among others to form a sexual assault cold case unit.

The three-year, $2,998,090 grant, known as a National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (or SAKI), comes from the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance and will pay for a victim advocate, investigator and prosecutor, among others, to form a sexual assault cold case unit, Attorney General Andy Beshear said.

“We’ll establish a sexual assault cold case unit, dedicated to investigating and prosecuting the backlog cases, while providing needed services to survivors, who have waited far too long for justice,” he said.

The unit will work out of Beshear’s office and allow him to fund an additional Kentucky State Police cold case and sexual assault detective.

“It will also fund the KSP crime lab to test up to an additional 1,500 rape kits which, for whatever reason, were not included in the original 3,000 rape kits, but who deserve justice just the same,” he said.

Beshear said the 1,500 kits have been sent to the lab, not tested for various reasons, and returned to law enforcement agencies.

Some of the grant money will go to the safe kit backlog research project at the University of Louisville, which he said, “Will examine the outcomes of kit testing, identify data-driven, victim-centered responses to sexual assault, and provide justice to victims.”

According to Kentuckybacklog.com, all 3,173 rape kits originally submitted to private labs have been tested, 340 DNA profiles have been created, leading to 144 database “hits.”

Former State Auditor Adam Edelen uncovered more than 3,000 untested rape kits, some dating back to the 1990s, languishing at police departments and the Kentucky State Police lab in 2015, and Beshear said he has made getting these tested as a priority since taking office.

The SAFE Act of 2016 (SB 63) provided up to $4.5 million over five years to upgrade the KSP Crime Lab, which came from settlement money obtained by the Attorney General’s office.  Beshear contributed an additional $1 million to aid law enforcement and prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases.

“We’re going to be accountable in everything we do, so that we can ensure that this backlog never happens again,” Beshear said of the grant.  “I pledge that every safe kit will be tested.  And where there are hits, where there is evidence, we will seek justice, on behalf of every single survivor.  It is no less than they deserve.”

Beshear said his offices come to work to change “a rape culture here in Kentucky and throughout America. We know that nearly one in two Kentucky women will suffer some form of sexual violence during their lifetime. I’m a son, a husband, and a father of a 7-year-old girl.  And both I and every employee of this office are committed to changing that culture.”

(Photo courtesy of Kentucky Today)

By Kentucky Today