Presenter Information

Kallie Crawford, M.S.

Duquesne University

Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Forensic Science & Law Program

Lyndsie Ferrara, Ph.D

Duquesne University

Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Forensic Science & Law Program

Abstract

According to the FBI, to date, there are more than 400,000 untested sexual assault kits nationwide. While this is a huge issue that cannot be solved overnight, continual improvements and changes are needed to reduce and hopefully eliminate the backlog.

This research examines work going on nationwide and aims to better understand the backlog issues specifically in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the research examines a program utilized by the law enforcement community that garnered necessary resources. First, a comprehensive review of improved practices in proactive jurisdictions of Ohio, Houston, Texas, and Detroit, Michigan was conducted to identify general policies and procedures that could be implemented elsewhere. Next, interviews with key stakeholders identified specific issues in Pennsylvania. Based on these discussions a survey was developed to gather data related to sexual assault case practices across Pennsylvania. Finally, examination of the COPS grant program previously used by law enforcement indicates potential parallels for employing additional forensic scientists in an effort to reduce and eliminate the backlog.

Ending the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in the United States will require a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach. A deep commitment at all levels of government will require every state to have clear policies and procedures for handling sexual assault kits that will help to create a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable and creates opportunities for healing and justice for survivors.

School

Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Lyndsie Ferrara

Submission Type

Paper

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Understanding the Sexual Assault Kit Backlog in Pennsylvania

According to the FBI, to date, there are more than 400,000 untested sexual assault kits nationwide. While this is a huge issue that cannot be solved overnight, continual improvements and changes are needed to reduce and hopefully eliminate the backlog.

This research examines work going on nationwide and aims to better understand the backlog issues specifically in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the research examines a program utilized by the law enforcement community that garnered necessary resources. First, a comprehensive review of improved practices in proactive jurisdictions of Ohio, Houston, Texas, and Detroit, Michigan was conducted to identify general policies and procedures that could be implemented elsewhere. Next, interviews with key stakeholders identified specific issues in Pennsylvania. Based on these discussions a survey was developed to gather data related to sexual assault case practices across Pennsylvania. Finally, examination of the COPS grant program previously used by law enforcement indicates potential parallels for employing additional forensic scientists in an effort to reduce and eliminate the backlog.

Ending the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in the United States will require a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach. A deep commitment at all levels of government will require every state to have clear policies and procedures for handling sexual assault kits that will help to create a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable and creates opportunities for healing and justice for survivors.