Jane Mason, Retired FBI Special Agent
09/05/2019, 3:20 PM EST
Updated: September 6, 2019, 9:15 AM EST
Every year, an estimated 1,155,000 women are sexually assaulted and DON’T report it or have a sexual assault kit done at a medical facility.* The PRESERVEkit is an option for this group of victims who don’t collect evidence.
Admissibility of Evidence
Crime victims give evidence to law enforcement that is admissible in court every day. The court system doesn’t rule out evidence for the sole reason that it has been provided by the victim. There are myriad reasons why evidence is or is not admissible in court. A blanket statement that a victim collecting evidence of sexual assault with an at-home kit does not apply. Every person within the chain of custody is responsible for the proper handling of evidence.
Here is a brief HYPOTHETICAL example which does not encompass every aspect of a criminal investigation:
HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE A victim completes a PRESERVEkit. As part of the kit, a pair of underwear is packaged and documented. In ten days, the victim decides to report the crime. The police accept the PRESERVEkit with the underwear and begin the chain of custody. The police submit the underwear to the crime lab for processing and a DNA profile either is or isn’t developed. If a DNA profile is developed, the police enter it into CODIS or compare it to the DNA of a suspect. An investigation then ensues to prove the allegations of the crime.
So much can and often does go wrong during criminal investigations and prosecutions. The defense team tries to find fault with and impeach the prosecution’s strong evidence and witnesses in its effort to obtain a not guilty verdict for the client. Just like with all other evidence, when evidence from the PRESERVEkit is presented in court, it will have to meet the standards of our admirable legal system. The addition of the victim collecting evidence him or herself does not, in and of itself, indicate the evidence is inadmissible.
PRESERVEkit Focus Is Evidence
The PRESERVEkit was developed to address the evidentiary needs of survivors who don’t otherwise have their evidence collected. We emphasize that the PRESERVEkit doesn’t address other needs survivors may have including injuries and mental health needs as well as concerns about STDs and pregnancy. If survivors need advocacy resources, a great place to start is RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1 800 656 4673.
*Per a 2015 survey by the Center for Disease Control, “in the U.S., 1.2% of women (approximately 1.5 million) reported completed or attempted rape in the 12 months preceding the survey.” According to the most recent study by the Department of Justice, only 23% of sexual assaults are reported to the police. This leaves 1,155,000 victims (77% of 1.5 million annual victims = 1,155,000 victims) who DON’T report the crime or have a sexual assault kit.