Gov. Beshear, Kentucky State Police Support Sexual Assault Victims Through Education, Public Awareness

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 23, 2024) – For the first time, on April 24, the Kentucky State Police will participate in Denim Day in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Gov. Andy Beshear said it is unacceptable that, in Kentucky, nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced sexual violence of some form, and he urged Kentuckians to speak out and take a stand against the crime.

“The simple act of wearing jeans sends a powerful message throughout Kentucky and across the nation that we will not tolerate this horrific act and we stand with all victims of sexual abuse every single day,” said Gov. Beshear. “We are committed to raising awareness today as we continue to protect Kentucky’s most vulnerable while holding perpetrators accountable.”

Denim Day originated in Italy as the result of a landmark 1992 case in which an 18-year-old was raped by her driving instructor. Despite the perpetrator’s initial conviction, the Italian High Court controversially overturned the ruling, citing the victim’s tight jeans as evidence of consent.

In response, women in the Italian Parliament protested the decision by wearing jeans, which gained international attention. Since then, Denim Day has evolved into a global movement aimed at dispelling myths and misconceptions surrounding sexual violence.

KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. encourages agency employees – and all Kentuckians – to wear jeans and participate in Denim Day as a show of support for survivors. Several members of the agency and leadership of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet pledged their support to shatter the stigma and work toward a world free from sexual violence by signing a pair of jeans.

“We hope that by this visual representation, survivors of sexual assault will see KSP’s commitment to combatting sexual violence while creating a culture of empathy and understanding,” said Commissioner Burnett. “In addition to public outreach efforts like this, we have a specialized unit that works tirelessly – and will never stop working – to ensure justice for victims.”

The KSP Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) investigative team was formed in July 2021 after the U.S. Department of Justice awarded $1.5 million to the commonwealth to leverage existing investigative resources within the KSP Crime Lab by transitioning investigators and a criminal intelligence analyst from the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General to KSP. The team works with victims, law enforcement partners, prosecutors, and community partners to provide enhanced investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases.

In October of last year, Gov. Beshear announced that an additional $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Justice had been awarded to the KSP SAKI investigative team to enhance its critical work by hiring additional personnel dedicated to testing sexual assault kits and improving sexual assault data collection to better identify predators. This funding was the second-largest award in the history of the commonwealth from the department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Since 2021, the team has aided numerous law enforcement agencies throughout the commonwealth on more than 985 cases and taken the lead as investigator on approximately 100 cases.

In August 2023, the KSP SAKI investigative team, in conjunction with state and local partners, announced it achieved a significant breakthrough in a series of sexual assault cases that occurred in 2005.

“Closing these cases provides solace to the victims’ families and demonstrates the steadfast dedication of our team in pursuing justice,” said KSP Detective Janet Barnett. “We want victims to know that they were believed, and this wasn’t their fault.”

In addition to Denim Day, it is also National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which is focused on asking all of us – friends, family members, neighbors, colleagues, community leaders, victim service providers, criminal justice practitioners and health professionals – how we can help crime victims. Commissioner Burnett said the agency employes 13 victim advocates, who connect victims with immediate resources, such as mental health services, crisis intervention or legal support. 

The Beshear-Coleman administration has awarded more than $133 million in grant funding to victim service agencies across the commonwealth since taking office.

Today’s announcement follows the Governor’s signing of House Bill 207 into law last month, strengthening the language in statute to include other forms of abuse and sexual exploitation of minors.

On April 8, the administration announced that applications are available for more than $15 million in grant funding to support victims of crime under the federal Victims of Crime Act program, known as VOCA.

In November, the Governor announced that, to improve outcomes for survivors, the executive, judicial and legislative branches, as well as KSP, the Department of Corrections, Administrative Office of the Courts, the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet’s Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center and ZeroV are partnering with the CSG Justice Center. This is the council’s largest statewide domestic violence data project. The group will analyze domestic violence data and then make policy recommendations to improve services and prevent victimization. This project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024 at no cost to Kentuckians.

Get Help Now

If you have experienced sexual violence and need support or information about available services, remember you are not alone. Kentucky’s domestic violence programs and shelters are open 24/7 and are safe for survivors and their families to receive emergency shelter and supportive services. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and needs assistance, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 800-799-SAFE or clicking here.

You can reach out to the 24-hour Rape Crisis Line at 800-656-HOPE (4673) to connect with a sexual assault service provider near you or contact your local KSP Post to connect with a victim advocate.

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