In 2011, Texas became the second state to pass a law to reform legislative sexual assault kit reform. As the wave of legislative reform spread to other states, leading national advocates at the Police Foundation, the National Center for Victims of Crime, and the Joyful Heart Foundation began to discuss whether the implementation of such laws would match their intent. The Texas Sexual Assault Kit Evaluation Project was designed to study the impact of these laws on the criminal justice system.
With generous support from the Communities Foundation of Texas, we have been able to convene key experts to evaluate the impact of these critical reforms. The lessons learned from this project will be essential to better inform legislators as they seek to reform the collection, handling, and testing of sexual assault kits in their own jurisdictions.
Robert C. Davis, the Police Foundation’s Chief Social Scientist, has extensive experience researching issues related to both policing and violence against women. Over his career, he has directed more than 40 projects on victimization, domestic violence, policing, crime prevention, immigration, courts, prosecution, and parole reentry for federal and state governments, and private foundations. He has conducted studies of sexual assault victims for the National Institute of Justice as well as the National Institute of Mental Health. His recent work includes a study of the cold case investigation process for homicides and sexual assaults and the national evaluation of the Office for Victims of Crime’s victim rights clinics. He is the author of two books on crime prevention, editor of five books on crime prevention and victimization, and author of more than 100 journal articles and book chapters.
Susan Howley, the National Center’s Director of Public Policy, has long supervised the Center’s DNA work. She also has experience in conducting and analyzing interviews, including recent interviews with 27 expert researchers and practitioners regarding their views regarding bridging the gap between research and practice in victim services. Ms. Howley will be responsible for developing interview forms for the ER administrators of Dallas-area hospitals, conducting the interviews and overseeing the analysis of those interviews, as well as analyzing qualitative data from interviews with local key informants. She will also assist in drafting the final report and in disseminating project findings to the victim advocacy and DNA-interest communities.
Ilse Knecht is the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Joyful Heart Foundation and is considered a national expert on the nation’s untested rape kit crisis. She leads the foundation’s efforts to end the untested rape kit backlog through awareness, education, and legislative reform efforts. She has more than 16 years’ experience in working with sexual assault advocates, was project manager on an OVW-funded training and technical assistance project, Sexual Assault Kit Backlogs: Making Victims Part of the Solution. She has served on several advisory committees concerning sexual assault response teams, forensic exams, and victims’ issues.
Dr. William Wells is a Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Sam Houston State University. He is also Research Director and Program Coordinator for the Texas Major Cities Police Chief Leadership Series in the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. Between 2011 and 2015 Dr. Wells was lead research partner on the Houston Unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kit Action Research Project, which was funded by the National Institute of Justice. During 2012 and 2013 he collaborated with the Houston Police Department Robbery Division on an experiment that tested different methods of administering photo spreads and lineups to witnesses. The experiment received the Gold Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement Research from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. His research interests include police practices to prevent and reduce crime and police use of forensic evidence.
Torie Camp is an independent consultant with more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit and policy arenas. Torie has held positions as the Deputy Director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and the Executive Director of the Alabama Coalition Against Rape. She has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is a licensed Texas law enforcement instructor and a gubernatorial appointee to the Texas Crime Victims’ Institute Advisory board. While at TAASA she authored the Texas Model Protocol for Responding to Sexual Assault.