This seventh episode in the season of “Perspectives on At-Home Sexual Assault Kits” in the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Patti Powers, an attorney advisor at AEquitas and a former senior deputy prosecuting attorney in Washington state, who discusses at-home sexual assault kits from a prosecutorial perspective.
An introductory note for the interview advises that for many survivors of sexual violence, participation in the prosecution of a suspected offender can be a significant step in their healing process. Patti Powers has sought to counter sexual violence for just over 30 years. In this interview, she discusses the prosecution of sexual assault cases and the impact of at-home sexual assault kits on case resolutions. Noting the emergence of at-home sexual assault kits due to the pandemic and reluctance to be in a hospital or medical facility, victim advocates and medical professionals around the country have assured sexual assault victims that medical care involving forensic examinations is available in safe environments. In contrasting the use of at-home sexual assault kits and having medically and forensically trained professionals perform treatment and evidence collection, Powers argues that tailoring medical and forensic services to the survivor’s needs and the circumstances of the assault facilitates both the survivor and the evidence becoming valuable assets in the prosecution of the case. The administration of at-home sexual assault kits, on the other hand, relies either on traumatized survivors themselves or family members and friends untrained in the knowledge and skills of medically and forensically trained professionals, thus weakening both survivor participation and evidence reliability in case prosecution.