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Tested at Last: How DNA Evidence in Untested Rape Kits Can Identify Offenders and Serial Sexual Assaults

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: Online Dated: March 2016
Date Published
March 2016
0 pages
In order to inform policy and practice regarding sexual assault kit (SAK) testing, the current study tested a sample of 900 previously unsubmitted SAKs from Detroit, Michigan, and documented the DNA forensic testing outcomes associated with those kits.
An increasing number of U.S. law enforcement agencies have disclosed that they have large numbers of untested SAKs (also called "rape kits") in police property storage. Whether previously untested SAKs should be tested for DNA evidence has been the subject of considerable public debate. The current study assessed how many previously untested SAKs in the Detroit Police Department's SAK backlog yielded DNA profiles eligible for upload into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), the Federal DNA criminal database; how many resulted in a DNA match (termed a "CODIS hit"); and how many of those hits were associated with other sexual assault crimes (i.e., serial sexual assault hits). Overall, there were 259 CODIS hits, 69 of which had DNA matches to another sexual assault case. The potential utility of a DNA profile and CODIS hit may vary depending on whether the offender was known or unknown to the victim, so the study examined these outcomes separately for SAKs associated with stranger- and non-stranger-perpetrated sexual assaults. Also presented are six case studies as examples of how DNA testing and CODIS hits helped identify serial sexual assaults in both stranger and non-stranger sexual assault cases. Implications for rape kit testing policies are discussed. 39 references (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: March 1, 2016