Sexual assault survivors across the country regularly report unsatisfactory experiences with criminal legal intervention. In many situations,survivors are not believed and/or supported when they turn to the criminal legal system — often encountering intense scrutiny that seems to question their credibility. The problematic ways the criminal legal system responds to rape survivors is well known in most communities, typically resulting in mistrust and lack of confidence in legal institutions that can contribute to an unwillingness to report.
Increasingly, communities such as Bellingham-Whatcom County, WA have sought to better understand how sexual assault cases are processed by the criminal legal system in order to promote increased justice for survivors and accountability for offenders. In 2015, Praxis International was funded by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to lead a team of national experts to support a local team of practitioners to conduct a demonstration Audit of the criminal legal system response to sexual assault. In 2016, Bellingham-Whatcom County received OVW funding to conduct an audit of their community’s response to sexual assault to develop insight into the needs of sexual assault survivors from responding institutions. As a result, Praxis and Bellingham-Whatcom County then partnered to implement the Sexual Assault National Demonstration Audit (SANDA) to accomplish two goals; 1) identify ways to improve local response to sexual assault in Whatcom County, and 2) create new Praxis resources, tools, and strategies that support more communities to enhance their response to sexual assault.