On April 19, 2019, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Tara Gardner, along with members of the Portland Police Bureau’s Sex Crimes Unit presented at the “Sexual Assault Awareness Month Conference.”
The event, which was held at the Cascade Campus of Portland Community College in north Portland, was hosted by the Sexual Assault Advisory Committee of the Family Violence Coordinating Council and the Multnomah County Department of County Human Services Domestic and Sexual Violence Coordination Office.
“The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office works to support victims of sexual assault year-round, but we take this opportunity during National Sexual Assault Awareness Month to recognize all of the individuals who support survivors of sexual assault,” DDA Gardner said. “The trauma someone experiences after a sexual assault can last forever. As a community, we have an obligation to support all crime victims with every step in recovery.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. The campaign theme, “I Ask,” champions the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.
DDA Gardner along with Portland Police Bureau Victim Advocate Slava Jovanovic and PPB Detective Nathan Wollstein gave a presentation on sexual assault investigations, victim advocacy and prosecution.
DDA Gardner is assigned to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Untested Sexual Assault Kit Project.
In September 2015, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office was awarded the Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Elimination Grant by the Office of the District Attorney. The purpose of the DANY Grant was to provide funding to governmental agencies to test untested sexual assault kits.
On March 12, 2019, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., announced the results from his office’s $38 million initiative to test Sexual Assault Evidence kits, known as “SAFE kits,” in states across the country, including Oregon. During his press conference, DA Vance remarked that Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill “passionately supported comprehensive rape kit reform in Oregon.”
The Untested Sexual Assault Kit Project includes DDA Gardner, Forensic Consultant Susan Hormann and Victim Advocate Kendra Bonetti who, collaboratively, manage the DANY Grant.
Under the DANY grant, nearly 3,000 sexual assault kits from around the state of Oregon were tested. DDA Gardner reviews every case arising from a previously untested SAFE kit, evaluates whether the case can be reopened for further investigation, and handles any resulting prosecution.
In 2018, Oregon became one of the first five states in the country to clear its backlog of Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) kits.
In 2016, Oregon passed Melissa’s Law that established an annual audit of untested SAFE kits.
The law requires law enforcement to create guidelines for collecting and submitting kits for analysis. These policies ensure that law enforcement receive newly collected kits from medical facilities within seven days and ensure that law enforcement submit the kit to the Oregon State Police within 14 days.
The law also mandates law enforcement adopt policies to ensure that survivors receive information about the status of their SAFE kit. In 2018, Oregon enacted a law that requires the creation and implementation of an electronic, statewide tracking system of rape kits.
Untested Sexual Assault Kit Project includes members of the Portland Police Bureau and meets weekly to review cases to ensure all sexual assault kits are tested.
To learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the “I Ask” campaign, please click here.