SAKI Program Receives Fifth Grant Toward Helping Survivors of Sexual Assault

The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) totals $727,651 in 2019 fiscal year grants.

DULUTH, Minn.- The Duluth– St. Louis county Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) project just received its fifth federal grant.

The latest award will help victim–survivors of sexual assault by funding prosecution of their abusers.

The award puts the SAKI program’s sum grant total at $727,651 this fiscal year.

Duluth police, PAVSA and St. Louis county all say this money is helping the SAKI program move forward into a new part of the project.

“This latest round of grant money is good because now we’re moving from the intensive investigation testing phase to prosecution,” St. Louis county attorney Mark Rubin said.

After four years of researching untested sexual assault kits, SAKI is taking action against abusers.

“It’s necessary to have additional funding to do this work because you need people that are dedicated to just this project,” PAVSA psych coordinator Mary Faulkner said.

Grant money will, in part, pay the salary for a single hired county prosecutor and a second new investigator.

“A lot of what we’re trying to do is how can the different agencies involved– Duluth police department, PAVSA, the county attorney’s office– how would they be able to keep this work going once we don’t have grant funding anymore?” Faulkner said.

The money is only funding a small team with the intention of grooming experts in the program who will eventually know the process well enough that they can handle cases with less federal support.

“Investigations an prosecutions can take a long time and a lot of it is dependent on survivors feeling like they can go down that road with us and feel supported through that road,” Rubin said.

Aside from funding, another new and timely difficulty is finding ways to appropriately sentence prosecuted abusers.

“When we do it, we have a lot of responsibility to them because they have all this long–standing disappointment. We want that to result to be something positive for them. And if justice is that somebody should be convicted, that is our goal,” Rubin said.

The timeline for prosecuting and sentencing abusers is indefinite because of factors like victim-survivor participation.

“We want them to know that we’re making the system better and that we are dedicated to this project and by continuing to seek funding, know that there is no quick fix, we’re in it for the long haul, Faulkner said.

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