A Review of the Sexual Assault Kit Backlog and the Methods of Biological Analysis in Crime Laboratories

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Name: Chloe Clear
Major: Biology
Advisor: Laura Sirot

Sexual assault has been a rising issue throughout the past few decades.  Due to this, efforts have been made to raise awareness and seek justice, including the creation of sexual assault kits (SAKs).  SAKs collect and record evidence from the victim’s body to aid in the identification of a perpetrator.  Evidence in SAKs usually contain DNA samples which can create a direct link between the assault and assailant.  However, we are in the midst of a nationwide SAK backlog where hundreds of thousands of sexual assault kits have become untested over the past thirty years.  This study reviews several probable causes to the backlog, which include cost, DNA analysis, and bureaucratic conflicts.  Regardless of these possible sources, a definitive cause is unable to be identified.  Recently, efforts have been made to end this backlog.  These efforts can be identified in the creation of SAK initiatives and proposed improvements to the processing of DNA in SAKs.  After conducting this review, I believe that the proposed changes to the methods of DNA processing and analysis will provide benefits to time efficiency and accuracy of these tests, however, this will not provide significant advantages to stopping the backlog.  In contrast, the creation of SAK initiatives requires the testing of all kits in the backlog while also providing funding.  This program sets in motion better solutions to stopping the backlog while issuing justice for victims.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2023 on April 12, 2023.

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