Efforts to address the implementation of anti-sexual assault kits across the country have meant that dozens of thousands of kits have been tested in recent years. The laboratory of the FBI alone tested over 3,600 kits in four years with the collaboration of state and local agencies.
The work done to inventory and test the test equipment is part of the story. The other part is what has been discovered about the serial nature of many sexual criminals, as thousands of cases are added to the ADN and national crime FBI databases.
The sexual assault kits are created when a victim informs the authorities of an assault and allows an appropriately skilled nurse or doctor to gather physical evidence from her body and clothes.
These kits can end up in laboratories without proof or not presented as proof for a range of reasons, according to Angela Williamson, forensic policy consultant of Bureau for Judicial Assistance(BJA), which leads the sexual assault kit initiative.
Most jurisdictions suffer delays before the DNA profile is well developed. There are still other kits that have not been tested because of the limited application by the police force and because of laboratory resources, because the victims give up on the case, or the lack of training and understanding on the part of the personnel in charge of the police’s role.
Since 2015, the programme has inventoried 61,134 kits and has sent 44,952 tests. Of the 39,565 kits that could be tested until their outcomes, 13,521 produced a fairly high quality DNA profile that could be introduced into the forensic database of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
When the 13,521 kits were introduced into the CODIS, 6,366 coincided with an entry that already existed. A CODIS entry is not only created when an individual or his DNA is linked to a possible crime. The FBI laboratory tested 3,610 kits and posted 1,965 entries on CODIS. In 829 of these, there was a coincidence with someone on the database or with another sample on the database.
Most victims of sexual attacks knew their attackers, but even if the victim recognises the victim, it is still worth taking and testing the DNA. A known criminal may be an unknown criminal to others.
Kentucky and other states state that people that commit sexual assault often commit more than one sexual assault; and these offenders not only assault more victims; they are often related to other violent crimes and/or crime against property.
The Kentucky study discovered that the cost for society of not trying kits is much bigger than the expense that the state would have to face to completely finance its criminal laboratory.
Another powerful instrument that supports the effort is the FBI Violent Crime Apprehension Programme (ViCAP), which can help in cases where here is no DNA or if cases are linked because of DNA, but if there is no name attached. ViCAP allows agencies to capture description of suspects, information regarding vehicles, accounts of incidents and other data that could help to connect cases.
Kentucky is a state that has volunteered to introduce the information from its sexual assault teams to ViCAP. The BJA programme now requires it from recipients of subsidies.
BJA subsidies offers financial support both for cases and investigations and for tests. Moreover, agencies all over country are adopting the need that those who are most responsible are the best informed when responding to sexual assault, how victims respond to the trauma and how to focus better on the victims during each stage of the investigation.
Experts agree that the first lesson learned is that the police should investigate each incident of sexual assault reported, thoroughly and carefully, which requires reforms that go beyond laboratory tasks and the gathering of data.