For Immediate Release: November 3, 2023
Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced the receipt of $2 million in competitive federal funding to establish an advanced tracking system for the state’s Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) Kits. SAFE Kits are used to preserve physical evidence collected from medical forensic examinations conducted by qualified nurses after an individual has experienced an act of sexual violence. This endeavor is part of an ongoing commitment to provide victims of sexual abuse with support and transparency in navigating the criminal justice process.
The grant provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative helps to provide financial resources to ensure sexual assault survivors have a means to track the status of their SAFE Kit and related criminal proceedings. The funding will also ensure SAFE Kits are being stored and processed in a timely and transparent manner.
“Survivors of sexual violence in our state and beyond deserve an investigative process that is accessible and devoid of confusion. Giving these survivors tracking access during the evidence collection and review process and throughout their trials will allow them to regain control in some form while they begin to heal,” said Governor Murphy. “We are incredibly grateful to the federal government for the award of this grant to support our efforts of addressing the needs of survivors of violence in our state.”
“A statewide SAFE Kit tracking system is essential to the mental well-being of survivors of sexual assault. The ability to track one’s own Kit and case will provide individuals some sense of ease in a long process of healing,” said Lt. Governor Tahesha Way. “In New Jersey, we will continue to support survivors of sexual violence in every way possible.”
“While we cannot erase the pain that survivors of sexual abuse have endured, we can provide them with the tools and transparency they need to regain control over their lives,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The introduction of this tracking system is a monumental step that will empower survivors to obtain information on their cases at any time, bolstering their agency and supporting them during their healing process.”
“We must stand by survivors of sexual assault, and the introduction of this grant-funded SAFE Kit tracking system marks a significant improvement in law enforcement’s ability to keep sexual assault survivors informed and engaged in the criminal justice process,” said J. Stephen Ferketic, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Together, we are sending a powerful message: Survivors will not be forgotten, and offenders will be held accountable.”
“The creation of a statewide SAFE Kit tracking system will ease burdens for survivors, offer us an opportunity to implement data-informed policy and practice reforms, and expand the principles of creating a survivor-centered, trauma-informed system that responds to the needs of the victims and survivors we serve,” said Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director of the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance.
“Providing survivors routine access to their case status is a meaningful step in New Jersey’s victim-centered approach to addressing Sexual Assault,” said Dr. Kristin Golden, Chief Data Officer of the Office of Justice Data. “This system will help ensure survivor resources are deployed where they are most needed and can help identify patterns of victimization instrumental in supporting sexual assault prevention efforts.”
Recognizing that the lifelong impact of sexual assault on survivors and their families can leave emotional scars in addition to physical injuries, Attorney General Platkin has taken steps to empower victims with respect, sensitivity, and support. Earlier this year, Attorney General Platkin issued Law Enforcement Directive No. 2023-1, which mandated the prolonged retention of evidence, including DNA samples, from sexual assault medical examinations if the survivor opts not to have them processed immediately, and extended the previous mandatory retention period from five to 20 years.
Furthermore, the directive sets forth a uniform set of protocols and guidelines to be observed statewide, governing the tracking, secure storage, and determination of the appropriate time for submitting such evidence for testing. It places strict limitations on the circumstances under which law enforcement agencies can opt not to forward evidence for testing in cases where a survivor has granted consent.
Crucially, the directive explicitly prohibits law enforcement officers and prosecutors from refusing to submit evidence for testing solely based on their belief that the sexual act was consensual, the absence of identified suspects, or the fact that the survivor has lodged a complaint against a current or former spouse or partner. This directive marks a significant stride toward a victim-centered and efficient approach to handling sexual assault cases.
Building on this foundation, this year DCJ, alongside the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance (VIVA), the Office of Justice Data (OJD), and the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), applied and successfully secured the $2 million in competitive federal grant funding for a state-of-the-art SAFE Kit tracking system. This system will require all law enforcement agencies and forensic nurse examiner programs across the state to log and monitor every SAFE Kit in their possession.
The Office of the Attorney General remains committed to a collaborative approach, working closely with the Murphy Administration, law enforcement, sexual assault victims, and tireless advocates, to help ensure that survivors receive the support they need to heal and find closure, standing united against sexual assault and its devastating impact on communities throughout New Jersey.