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Forming an Action-Research Team To Address Sexual Assault Cases

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2016
12 pages

This instructional report reviews eight lessons learned about forming a team to conduct action research on how to address a backlog of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs), based on experiences of such a team formed to address this issue in Detroit, MI.


First, addressing a SAK backlog requires a "champion (or champions)." Respected leaders must be committed to the cause, keeping key organizations and systems engaged in solving the problem, which resists quick, easy solutions. Second, forming a multidisciplinary team is important, but "building" a team is even more important. The results of the Detroit action-research project showed that years of poor systemic collaboration can contribute to the creation of a SAK backlog; therefore, allocating time to learn about the roles of each team member and the work of their organizations is critical. Third, a project coordinator is essential to the success of the project; this person is responsible for keeping the group on task, providing daily leadership, managing conflict, and sustaining team collaboration. Fourth, group facilitation has its challenges. A few roles that the group facilitator in an action research project can play are outlined. Fifth, specify who has decision- making authority. The team should clarify what decisions individual members can make and which of the team's decisions are binding or are merely advisory. Sixth, balance the workload, recognizing that new SAKs continue to come into the backlog. Some jurisdictions may be able to form cold case units that deal exclusively with older cases, while other units will manage the new cases. Seventh, prepare for change, since change is a constant factor faced by the team. Eighth, the action research model can be unclear to practitioners, who may not have participated in action-research projects. A listing of other brochures from the Detroit project