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The National Problem of Untested Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs): Scope, Causes, and Future Directions for Research, Policy, and Practice

NCJ Number
Trauma Violence & Abuse Volume: 18 Issue: 4 Dated: 2017 Pages: 363-376
Date Published
14 pages
This study examined the growing national problem of untested rape kits by summarizing current research on the number of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) in the United States and exploring the underlying reasons why police do not submit this evidence for DNA testing; and recommendations for future research that can guide policy and practice are discussed.

Victims of sexual assault are often advised to have a medical forensic exam and sexual assault kit (SAK; also termed a "rape kit") to preserve physical evidence (e.g., semen, blood, and/or saliva samples) to aid in the investigation and prosecution of the crime. Law enforcement are tasked with submitting the rape kit to a forensic laboratory for DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) analysis, which can be instrumental in identifying offenders in previously unsolved crimes, confirming identify in known-offender assaults, discovering serial rapists, and exonerating individuals wrongly accused; however, a growing number of media stories, investigative advocacy projects, and social science studies indicate that police are not routinely submitting SAKs for forensic testing, and instead rape kits are placed in evidence storage, sometimes for decades. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2017