KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. — Kalamazoo County's Sexual Assault Investigation Initiative (SAKI) Team is one among several in the state going through a backlog of assault test kits to see if convictions can be pursued in cases where they were previously abandoned. The team is implementing a fresh, more holistic approach to investigating sexual assaults, and empowering survivors.
On Tuesday, 29-year-old Brad Allen Risner was given 10- 22 years in prison for a sexual assault that prosecutors say happened all the way back in 2013. It marked a symbolic end to a traumatic journey for the survivor in the case. At the time it was initially investigated, back in 2016, nobody was charged.
“We did have evidence that matched Mr. Risner, and that his sperm was found inside the victim's vagina," Erin House, special assistant attorney general, told FOX 17 this week.
"But, he had already told the police back in 2013, that yes, I had sex with her, but it was consensual."
Due to the work of SAKI teams here in Michigan, Risner is also facing similar charges out of both Calhoun and Jackson counties. He is expected in court on the charges out of Jackson County next week.
“It took time, as it does in every case, for us to build trust with her, for her to allow us to go forward," House said of Risner's Kalamazoo County victim.
"And then what happened in this case, what has happened in almost every case that we've had, is that we discover that this is not an isolated incident."
Risner pleaded no contest to a felony assault charge in 2011, and was sentenced to serve a year behind bars.
But House said they found evidence of additional crimes he was never charged with.
“Our investigator talked with about a dozen different women who said that between 2005 and 2018, they were sexually and or physically assaulted by Mr. Risner,” she explained.
The SAKI teams, which include a Special Assistant AG, 3 investigators, and a full-time victim advocate, were launched back in 2016 after Michigan State Police secured a grant.
Nearly a decade ago, thousands of untested sexual assault test kits were found in police departments across Michigan, and the country at large. Eventually the thousands of untested kits found in Michigan were tested.
It was in 2016 that the state legislature determined the best way to proceed in actually analyzing all the new results.
“There certainly has been a new recognition, that there's value in testing every kit because, someone's known offender could be another person's unknown offender,” House said.
It's a more holistic approach to investigating sexual assaults that puts significant weight on the survivor, their particular trauma, and building a case without putting them through even more traumatic situations.
It is now law in Michigan that if a survivor requests an assault kit be done, it must be sent out to a lab within 14 days, and must be tested within 90.
House saying, “I don't mean that we resolve the trauma necessarily by prosecuting, but we resolve people's trauma, or we assist in resolving it, by treating them with respect, by communicating to them that we believe them and showing them that we're doing everything possible to try to protect them.”
You can find out more about the work that Kalamazoo County's SAKI team does at their webpage.
Sexual Assault Survivor Resources in Michigan
- National Sex Assault Online Hotline
- Your Rights & Important Legal Information
- What to Know About Sex Assault Kits
Or you can call (800) 656-4673 to speak with someone immediately.