Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examination Research Forum: Conclusions and Next Steps

Researchers, practitioners, and survivors worked collaboratively during the forum to identify a multitude of potential research questions related to the technical aspects of the SAMFE. They also discussed a number of broad-based considerations to be interwoven into evaluation of the technical practices (e.g., assessing for a victim-centered approach). Many of the questions posed could be further molded into more specific research questions. Questions could also be condensed into different categories, for example, by discipline. Ultimately, participants were clear that the field needs to ascertain: How do specific technical practices during the SAMFE impact the victim and legal outcomes? Which practices are victim-centered, produce probative evidence, and help facilitate investigation, prosecution, and conviction? It is those practices they want to recommend as best practices. Getting to those evidence-based best practices will require some discernment as to (1) which questions are the most critical to research first, (2) which need to be asked and answered before we can study other questions, and (3) which questions do we already have data for and only require secondary analyses of the data to provide answers.

As summarized in the Framing the Research Needs, forum participants provided initial guidance around what they saw as the necessary next steps:

  • First, the focus of research efforts should be gathering basic data from across the country regarding what evidence is being collected, collection techniques and technology, evolving DNA technology, what SAMFE kits instruct, and use of telemedicine in the SAMFE. Many of those basic questions can be extracted from this report. Determination will need to be made regarding what are the most important baseline data to seek and the logistics of gathering and analyzing different data sets.
  • With basic data compilation and analyses as a foundation, researchers, practitioners, and survivors will be better positioned to work together to re-evaluate the potential research questions posed in this report: In which areas are there still gaps in knowledge about best practices? Which among the remaining research questions are high priority, medium priority, and low priority respectively?

It is the hope of OVC and NIJ to share this report with forum participants and relevant governmental agencies, practitioners, and researchers for their input on adding and refining the potential research questions. OVC and NIJ envision future forums to allow the field to continue dialoging with one another and building consensus about the most urgent research needs related to the technical aspects of the SAMFE.

Date Created: September 13, 2012