Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examination Research Forum: Feasibility of a National Standardized Kit

Linda Ledray presented on this topic. While several participants indicated that a national standardized sexual assault evidence collection kit would be ideal, they stressed that logistically, it would be extremely difficult to develop and implement. Many states, via their crime labs, currently have standardized kits for sexual assault forensic evidence collection, but there is great variation among them as far as instructions, what is collected, and how it is collected, preserved, and stored. Participants stressed that before the field can begin to consider the feasibility of a national kit, there needs to be a broad-based epidemiological survey to identify what is currently consistent and what varies across kits. Elements to compare include (1) specific types of evidence to be collected, (2) time frame to collect specific types of evidence post-assault, (3) sequence of specimens collected, (4) techniques used to collect specific types of evidence, and (5) paperwork required. These practices also need to be examined in light of whether they are supported by research or if more research is needed to identify best practices. Some additional questions that participants identified for an initial query included:

  • Why are there disparities in kit requirements among crime labs? To what extent do examiners follow kit directives? Under what circumstances do they deviate from the directives, and why? How are labs updating kits to keep up with medical and forensic technology? If they are not updating it, why? What is the cost-benefit analysis of updating the kit to make use of new technology versus waiting (e.g., until those technologies are accepted in local courts)?
  • What is the probative value of the evidence? Does the collection method impact its value?
  • What is the impact of patients declining collection of a specific type of evidence on case investigation and prosecution? Does the kit instruct seeking the patient’s informed consent to the entire exam and/or to each piece of evidence to be collected? How could the defense potentially use patient declination to the entire exam and/or a particular piece of evidence?
  • What training do judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, examiners, and advocates receive related to the kit? Does the crime lab provide the training?
  • Are jurisdictional exam protocols in sync with their respective evidence collection kits?
Date Created: September 6, 2012