Sexual Assault Forensic Exams—DNA and Justice Responses to Sexual Assault

Our Team
Linda M. Williams, Ph.D.
April Pattavina, Ph.D.
Melissa Morabito, Ph.D.
Mary Frederick
Amanda Richer

This project Decision-Making in Sexual Assault Cases: Multi-site Replication Research on Sexual Assault Case Attrition in the U.S, DNA Supplement, is funded by the National Institute of Justice. It is a supplement to the Sexual Violence Case Attrition Project with a specific focus to examine in greater detail the impact of sexual assault forensic testing (rape kits) on key decision points and outcomes.

Key study objectives include:

  1. Document one police jurisdiction’s real time organizational and procedural adaptation to an unfunded mandate to test all kits;
  2. Compare case attrition before mandated testing and after mandated testing was implemented;
  3. Determine the extent to which forensic testing identifies persons with DNA profiles in CODIS; and
  4. Describe the victim notification process.


Significance and implications: This project effectively and efficiently builds on a currently funded research project to enhance the impact of the study. We have a wealth of information on case characteristics useful for analysis of factors associated with new outcomes arising from completed forensic evidence testing and an opportunity to understand the implementation of new policies on collection, testing and use of forensic medical evidence in sexual assault cases. With the goal of increasing access to justice for sexual assault victims, this work will contribute to development of best practices for testing forensic evidence from these kits.

This project was supported by Award No. 2014-Mu-MU-0001awarded to the University of Massachusetts Lowell by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.

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