he importance of the role forensic DNA evidence plays in solving sexual assault and homicide cases cannot be overstated. DNA evidence is a crucial tool used in effective police work to solve violent crimes. For those who have been wrongly accused, sentenced, and imprisoned-sometimes for many years—for a crime they did not commit, DNA evidence exonerates the innocent and alerts law enforcement to pursue the true offender. By convicting the guilty and freeing the innocent, DNA evidence truly serves the interests of justice.

Although DNA is a powerful tool, it is useless to the criminal justice system if not properly collected, preserved, and tested. Members of the criminal justice community must be trained to identify DNA evidence, to understand its significance, and to counsel victims on how valuable it is in apprehending and convicting offenders.

As technology to test forensic DNA evidence advances and huge backlogs of rape kits decline in laboratories nationwide, crimes will be solved more quickly and comparisons between known offenders and unsolved cases will increase using the FBI's CODIS database.

For too long, victims of violent crime have been ignored, but the criminal justice community now has an amazing tool that will offer victims relief, peace of mind, and some closure for having experienced and survived brutal sexual crimes or the death of a loved one. Victim service providers, law enforcement, evidence technicians, prosecutors, and others involved in bringing justice to crime victims are at the forefront of the DNA revolution, and they must strive to educate the public about the vital role DNA plays in protecting victims from further trauma.

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Understanding DNA Evidence: A Guide for Victim Service Providers
April 2001