Sexual Assault Kits Testing and Survivors Protection

The backlog of untested rape kits shows the failure of the criminal justice system to hierarchize the examining of the rape kits, consider sexual assault seriously, protect victims, and hold abusers answerable. Many aspects create a backlog. The first factor contributing to the backlog is lack of training and knowledge gaps. Lack of understanding about sexual assault and its effect on the survivors, forensic DNA, and sex offenders can all impact whether a kit is taken for testing (Campbell & Fehler 2018). Trauma can cause survivors to present themselves to law departments to seem as if the victims’ story is not trustworthy to the untrained officer. This lack of understanding leads to the closing of a case as unfounded. In addition, the law enforcement department might not know the power of DNA databases to prevent and solve a crime. Some do not see the value of rape kit testing or even know which kits should be sent for testing. The second factor is the lack of protocols and policies for rape kit testing.

Many jurisdictions lack written policies explaining the testing of rape kits. This leads to decisions being held on a case-to-case basis (Yung, 2017). Several key factors can affect law enforcement officer’s decisions, including Law enforcement bias and if the department prioritizes sexual assaults. Other factors that contribute to backlog include lack of resources such as police resources and crime lab resources, unclear or outdated lab policies, and whether the perpetrator’s identity is known. Most jurisdictions test kits in cases where the offender is unknown.

In the instant consequence of sexual assault, the survivor may decide to undertake a medical check-up to gather authentication left in the assault. The doctor will perform testing, and the survivor collects the authentication in what is mainly known as a rape kit. Victims who take this extensive and intrusive action expect doctors to examine their rape kits; however, rape kits are left on the evidence room shelves untested.  DNA is a fundamental tool that helps law departments prevent and solve the crime (Dedrickson, 2017). Rape kit evidence can help to identify unknown muggers, vindicate wrongfully convicted, and reveal serial offenders. Examining rape kits can confirm the form of DNA outline. Can enter this DNA outline into states, local, and national databases holding DNA from offenders. When all rape kit evidence linked to a reported misdemeanor is tested, additional DNA profiles are found and entered into these databases. This helps more DNA from offense be connected, providing investigative leads.

The criminal justice system can provide very little help to stop violence if staff and agency executives do not know the problem posed by sexual assault. All officers involved in the response, police officers, judges, and parole officers, must be trained and understand the complexity of sexual assault. The criminal justice system should make the survivors’ safety the priority. The primary aim of any response is the safety of the survivor. Survivor’s safety should be the primary role of the prosecutor, court administrator, judge, police officer, and probation officer. Respecting the autonomy and integrity of the survivor is another way to improve the justice system’s response to sexual assaults.

Survivors should be given the right to make their choices. Survivors are more aware of their offenders than justice system officers. Justice system officers should: help survivors evaluate the abuser’s dangerousness, help the victim implement her goals, provide information about victims’ options, and ask thoughtful questions concerning victims’ situations. The criminal justice system should also offer survivors confidentiality.




Campbell, R., & Fehler‐Cabral, G. (2018). Why police “couldn’t or wouldn’t” submit sexual assault kits for forensic DNA testing: A focal concerns theory analysis of untested rape kits. Law & Society Review, 52(1), 73-105.

Dedrickson, K. (2017). Universal DNA databases: a way to improve privacy?. Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 4(3), 637.

Yung, C. R. (2017). Rape law gatekeeping. BCL Rev., 58, 205.

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