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How to Right a Wrong: Empirically Evaluating Whether Victim, Offender, and Assault Characteristics can Inform Rape Kit Testing Policies

NCJ Number
Journal of Trauma & Dissociation Volume: 20 Issue: 3 Dated: 2019 Pages: 288-303
Date Published
16 pages
To address the research gap on effective ways to address the prevalent backlog of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs), this study sought to inform SAK testing policies by randomly sampling 900 previously untested SAKs from Detroit, MI.

The sampled SAKs were submitted for DNA testing, and eligible DNA profiles were entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the federal DNA database. Police records associated with each SAK were coded for victim, offender, and assault characteristics, and logistic regression analyses were conducted to test whether these characteristics predict which SAKs yield DNA profiles that match ("hit") to other criminal offenses in CODIS. Testing this sample of previously untested SAKs produced a substantial number of CODIS hits, but few of the tested variables were significant predictors of CODIS hit rate. These findings suggest that testing all previously-unsubmitted kits may generate information that is useful to the criminal justice system, while also potentially addressing the institutional betrayal victims experienced when their kits were ignored. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019