COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced new research supporting evidence that a rape kit should be collected and sent to a forensic laboratory as soon as possible for the best chance of identifying a DNA profile that could someday lead to a suspect. The research findings, recently published in the prestigious international Journal of Forensic Sciences, highlight best practices in rape kit forensic laboratory testing procedures.
Researchers with the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative and the Ohio Attorney General’s Center for the Future of Forensic Science at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) examined data from more than 2,500 rape kits to determine which factors increased the probability that a DNA profile could be obtained.
“We are constantly looking for new ways to help victims and hold rapists accountable and this research is just another example of that constant push for the best outcomes,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine. “I am proud of the difference our Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative is making with this important issue.”
The Ohio Attorney General and BGSU research results support recent recommendations from the National Institute of Justice on best practices for testing sexual assault kits. Researchers involved in the Ohio Attorney General’s scientific study are now examining a smaller group of kits to further validate their findings.
The study found factors, like the time between the rape and when a nurse collects evidence from the victim, can impact whether a foreign DNA profile can be identified. Analysis of the data confirmed that the rape kit should be collected as soon as possible after an assault, preferably within 24 hours. And while a victim may submit various DNA samples from parts of her body for the rape kit, the research study found certain samples have the best chance at finding a CODIS eligible DNA profile.
For example, in a case where there are limited details given to the forensic scientist about what the victim says occurred during the attack, the best samples that yield a DNA profile include vaginal swabs, underwear, and skin swabs of the neck and other areas (where an attacker may have left saliva and other body fluids). Those could be examined first if a laboratory needs to prioritize testing.
The new research findings solidify what has been a general consensus among researchers and could now help streamline the process of testing kits.
“We believe this research adds guidance for forensic laboratories for prioritization of sample testing from sexual assault kits and development of best practices for testing,” said BCI’s Lewis Maddox, a co-author of the article.
“The application of statistics to the forensic analysis of SAKs allowed us to optimize our methods and is of major interest to the forensic science profession,” said Jon Sprague, article co-author and director of the Attorney General’s Center for the Future of Forensic Science.
The Journal of Forensic Sciences is an international publication that requires peer review and critique before submitted articles are approved. The article was published on November 29th. The research was funded by a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
Attorney General DeWine launched the Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative in 2011 after learning that dozens of law enforcement agencies across the state were in possession of rape kits, some of which were decades old, that had never been sent to a DNA lab for testing. Attorney General DeWine then made an open call to law enforcement to send their kits to BCI for DNA testing at no cost to them. To date more than 13,000 kits from across the state have been tested.
Story courtesy of Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.