The Innovative Way Hawaii Is Helping Sexual Assault Survivors

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In order to improve investigations, the Attorney General's office in Hawaii is launching a sexual assault kit initiative that will connect survivors with better support services. The initiative, called Project Mālama Kākou, will focus on improving standard practices for sexual assault evidence collection kits otherwise known as rape kits.

The initiative, begun in 2016 under Act 207, proactively addresses the fact that 1,950 rape kits went untested that year alone. The statewide effort aims to bolster the procedures involved in the maintenance, storage, investigation, and reporting of sexual assault evidence collection kits. A cursory glance at the executive summary of Act 207 shows that there is a more pronounced emphasis in Hawaii on helping sexual assault survivors get better access to resources that may allow them to heal.

The purpose of Project Malāma Kākou is stipulated in four points, according to the summary. Malāma Kākou — which also means "We Care" — will focus on re-examining untested sexual assault kits as well as new kits. The project will also work on clearly defining the criteria for examining and not examining sexual assault kits, and what kind of schedule and order the examination would go through.

Furthermore, it will assure that survivors remain updated with information and developments about their cases. This will be achieved, in part, by creating a tracking system for kits.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are constant issues for activists and workers in Hawaii — according to the No More initiative, a public engagement campaign working against domestic violence and sexual assault, 1 in 7 Hawaiian women have "experienced forcible rape in their lifetime."

The website also provides educational guidelines on the definitions of domestic violence and sexual assault and explains different types of sexual assault for readers. In the case of such grim statistics, Project Mālama Kākou can help thousands of women who do not know about the status of their kits. In fact, it allows survivors to check on the status and development of their kits via police departments across Hawaii.

The much-needed project was made possible after receiving federal funding through the 2016 National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, which allotted the Attorney General office of Hawaii $2 million for a three-year duration. The grant will be spent on testing neglected kits, investigating them, and connecting with survivors on a much more involved and compassionate level. Maybe in the future, other states will follow Hawaii's lead and do the same.