There’s a sexual assault happening proper now. Each 68 seconds, somebody in America is sexually assaulted. Greater than 97% of perpetrators get off scot-free.

A serious cause is mismanagement of bodily proof. It’s time for police work in Rhode Island to enter the fashionable period — and make use of the most recent expertise for accumulating and processing proof. In any other case, rapists will proceed to go free.

The proof in a sexual-assault investigation is often the product of a six-hour bodily examination performed by a medical skilled, who searches the sufferer’s physique for any materials — like DNA — that might assist establish the perpetrator. The data and materials gathered is called a “sexual assault package.”

As a survivor of intercourse trafficking and present advocate for victims, I do know firsthand how invasive and retraumatizing these exams might be. However we consider that the data collected will assist ship justice.

That religion is usually misplaced. In far too many instances, the proof in sexual assault kits isn’t used.

The state of Rhode Island, for example, reported a backlog of greater than 800 untested kits in 2020. Each unprocessed package represents a criminal offense left unsolved — and a perpetrator prone to assault once more.

When sexual assault kits are examined and used as proof, one other layer of dysfunction can seem. Court docket instances typically require proof of the “chain of custody” for a chunk of proof. Prosecutors want to have the ability to show the whereabouts of a rape package, for instance, because it travels from the emergency room, to the police, to the crime lab, to the prosecutor, after which to the courts. That proof could also be on the transfer for years.

The chain of custody is without doubt one of the first parts a great protection lawyer will scrutinize. If she or he can show a break within the chain of custody, the proof isn’t admissible at trial. And if a defendant challenges the chain of custody, even a minor mistake can result in an acquittal.

Lengthy backlogs and mismanagement of proof don’t simply affect convictions. In addition they function highly effective disincentives for ladies who want to report sexual assault.

Right this moment, any given sexual assault has only a 31% probability of ever being reported to the police. Why undergo an invasive, demeaning, bodily examination if the proof goes to finish up in a storage closet — or if mismanagement by police goes to let the rapist off on a technicality?

There’s no excuse for shedding monitor of proof in 2022. We are able to have a look at our telephones to find out what number of homes away our Amazon packages are. Our monetary and well being information are on-line, obtainable on demand. However some police departments nonetheless depend on defective software program and even paper information to trace proof. And a number of states, together with Massachusetts and Texas, don’t require police to maintain monitor of clothes, blood, and urine in a rape package.

Easy upgrades — from implementing barcodes and RFID tags, mixed with good software program — will convey evidence-collection and administration as much as an acceptable technological normal nationwide. It can require vital funding by federal and state governments. However newer instruments can maximize the affect of these public {dollars}.

Now we have the expertise to get extra perpetrators of sexual assault off the road. We want Rhode Island regulation enforcement companies to deploy these instruments so victims aren’t telling their tales in useless.

Christine McDonald is an internationally acknowledged writer, speaker, and advocate for victims of human trafficking and sexual assault. (

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