Cities and states across the United States are currently wrestling with the problem of untested sexual assault kits. Some of these untested kits are part of laboratory backlogs and some have never been submitted to a crime lab for processing. With funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the District Attorney's Office of New York in 2015, over 50 jurisdictions are working to address this problem and to, in a broad sense, improve local responses to sexual violence. Additional jurisdictions are expected to receive funding in 2016 and 2017.
In 2011 the National Institute of Justice funded research in Houston and Detroit to not only understand why evidence was collected but never submitted to a crime lab, but to take a broader view and study the complicated nature of investigating sexual assaults and prosecuting offenders. The "action-research" project in Houston involved multiple stakeholders in the process of diagnosing problems and then identifying appropriate responses. This "action-research" approach is predicated on the idea that effective solutions demand a solid understanding of the context and sources of problems. The ultimate goal was to improve responses to sexual violence by enhancing services for victims and holding offenders accountable. NIJ has produced a useful overview of the Houston and Detroit projects.
The Houston project officially ended in 2015 and this web site provides information about the project and results. In addition, reforms continue to be implemented in Houston today.