Journal of Undergraduate Research


unsubmitted sexual assault, Sexual Assault Kits, SAKs, public health concern




Sexual assault is a serious public health concern that has extremely long-term mental and physical health implications for victims. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012) estimates that 1 in 71 men and 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. The key for getting these men and women the justice and closure they need is often found in their Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs), which collect physical evidence from the sexual assault survivor for the state crime laboratory to analyze. Unfortunately, only 20% of SAKs are ever submitted to the Utah Bureau of Forensic Services state crime laboratory for DNA analysis (Valentine, 2013). This project seeks to increase the number of SAKs submitted to the state crime laboratory by developing a tracking system that will monitor the progress of every SAK given to law enforcement. Increasing the number of SAKs that are analyzed by the state crime laboratory will lead to justice and closure for many victims of sexual assault. To help accomplish this difficult task, Dr. Julie Valentine applied for and received both the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) BJA-2015-4115 Grant and the New York County District Attorney’s Office Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Elimination Grant (DANY), together totaling 3.2 million dollars dedicated to testing previously unsubmitted SAKs and improving Utah’s response to sexual assault cases. Only nine jurisdictions in the United States jointly received these grants, creating an important and unique opportunity to lead the nation in the testing of unsubmitted SAKs. While 3.2 million dollars is a significant source of funding, it was not enough to pay for the inclusion of research assistants. Receiving an ORCA grant allowed my participation in this nation-leading development of Utah’s new approach to sexual assault.

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