Contact: DCJS: John Caher, Director of Public Information,
(518) 457-8415; (518) 225-5240 (cell).
For release: Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009

“Rape kit” training video wins international recognition
Production of New York Network, DCJS receives coveted Ava Award

A rape kit training video featuring advocate/ actor Mariska Hargitay of NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and designed to make the inherently intrusive sexual assault evidence exam less traumatic for victims and more productive for law enforcement has been honored with an international award.

The Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP) has selected A Body of Evidence: Using the NYS Sexual Offense Evidence Collection Kit for a 2009 Ava Award. AMCP consists of several thousand production, marketing, communication, advertising, public relations and freelance professionals.

 A Body of Evidence was among 1,700 entries from several countries and was selected for a platinum award, the highest honor, recognizing “excellence in terms of quality, creativity and resourcefulness.” It was designed by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and produced and edited by New York Network (NYN), a service of the State University of New York The video has been endorsed by the New York Academy of Medicine and certified for continuing education credits.

“Producing this video was a collaborative effort that involved individuals from many different disciplines and many agencies and organizations, including:

Albany Memorial Hospital, which generously permitted us to utilize a portion of their emergency department to film the exam; the worldwide advertising team from BBDO New York, which provided invaluable graphic design assistance at no charge; Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which produced and directed filming of the introduction at no charge; and, of course, Ms. Hargitay who contributed her time, talent and insight,” said New York State’s Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, Denise E. O’Donnell, who also serves as commissioner of DCJS.

“New York Network pulled all of those components together to produce an extraordinary training video in which each step in the 15-step process is explained in detail, making the kit easy to use for both Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners – medical professionals, typically nurses, who are specifically trained to conduct examinations of sexual assault victims – and those professionals who have not received the very specialized training,” Deputy Secretary O’Donnell added. “This is particularly important because many smaller or rural hospitals do not have trained Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners on staff. On behalf of Governor David A. Paterson, I congratulate NYN – and everyone else involved in this project – for a job very well done.”

Neil Satterly, Executive Director SUNY-New York Network, said:  “New York Network is honored to have been selected as producer for this important collaborative project. The video professionals of NYN demonstrated extraordinary sensitivity in the program treatment, mindful of how the final program would benefit victims and the medical professionals performing critical evidence gathering. We thank our partners at DCJS for allowing us to be a part of this effort.”

The video was created as a companion to the recently revamped the New York State Sexual Offense Evidence Collection Kit, often referred to as the “rape kit.”

For the first time in nearly 20 years, DCJS completely revamped the rape kit to reflect advances in DNA technology and to streamline an inevitably discomforting physical examination. The kit is provided by DCJS to all hospital emergency departments across the state and allows for a standardized evidence collection process in all sexual assault cases.  .

Ms. Hargitay, an Emmy-winning actor who plays Detective Olivia Benson in the long-running television series, volunteered her time and talent to the project and is featured in the introduction. Ms. Hargitay said she became attuned to the epidemic of sexual assault when she started receiving hundreds of letters and emails from survivors desperate to share their story. In 2004, she founded the Joyful Heart Foundation to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.

“The healing process for a sexual assault victim often begins in the emergency department, and it is crucial that medical professionals are properly equipped to address the medical and emotional needs of the patient, and the evidentiary needs of law enforcement,” Ms. Hargitay said. “It was an honor and pleasure to work on this project, and I congratulate everyone involved for this well-deserved award.”

Among those also appearing in the video are: Manhattan’s top sex crimes prosecutor, Lisa Friel, Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office; Julie Pizziketti, Assistant Director of Biological Sciences at the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center; sexual assault nurse examiners Anne Galloway of Vera House in Syracuse and Erin Ptak of Family Services, Inc. in Poughkeepsie; and Sasha Helton, Crime Victims Specialist with Family Services, Inc.     

The new rape kit was produced by PWI, a company in Allegany County that provides training, employment and vocational opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Kits and training videos are provided free to hospitals across the state.