Skip to main content

U.S. Department of Justice Awards $500,000 for USD-Led Research on Sexual Assault

Bridget Diamond-Welch headshot Bridget Diamond-Welch is the principal investigator for a three-year, $500,000 Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Bridget Diamond-Welch, associate professor of criminal justice, is the principal investigator for a new three-year, $500,000 grant to understand how sexual assault cases move through South Dakota’s criminal justice system.

The State of South Dakota was awarded the U.S. Department of Justice Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant earlier in September. In addition to USD’s criminal justice studies program, partners in the program include the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigations; the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault; and the Center for the Prevention of Childhood Maltreatment.

The Beadle County State’s Attorney Office, led by Michael Moore (USD Law ’94), will house the initiative.

The goal of the study is to use a care-based approach to understand how sexual assault cases move through the criminal justice system and identify factors that may infringe upon successful prosecutions.

“So many people in our state care deeply about helping victims of sexual assault, but sometimes we are hindered by a lack of information on just what is going wrong with cases,” Diamond-Welch said. “This project will help us understand what happens between initial report and case dispensation. We will then use this information to create trainings for prosecutors on how to handle these cases.”

Krista Heeren-Graber, executive director of the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, stated that the DOJ-sponsored research will assist in further development of sexual assault responses within communities across South Dakota.

“This grant will allow us to better understand and improve the sexual assault kit process,” Heeren-Graber said. “The network is honored to be a part of this grant projected and committed to working together to provide a safer South Dakota.”

Professor David Earnest, chair of the Department of Political Science in which criminal justice studies is housed, identified the DOJ grant as an example of USD’s commitment to solutions-focused research that helps South Dakota’s communities.

“Professor Diamond-Welch worked with stakeholders to build a coalition of researchers, advocates and policy makers to effect meaningful change in sexual assault prosecutions,” Earnest said. “It is the perfect example of how USD brings faculty expertise into our communities to address South Dakota’s most pressing challenges.”


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News