More sexual assault kits were processed in 2014 than in previous years, according to a Brigham Young University professor’s research.
A year ago, Julie Valentine, a nursing professor at BYU in Provo, revealed the results of her study on rape kit processing between 2010 and 2013 in seven Utah counties, making it the most comprehensive study on the kits in the nation.
Valentine has released the next year of data, which looked at 2,317 sexual assault kits from 2010 to 2014. The study is published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
The most recent results show a rise in the percentage of rape kits that are being processed. In 2014, 75 percent of rape kits were submitted by law enforcement to the state crime laboratory for analysis, up from 38 percent from 2010 to 2013.
“There was really a substantial increase that I think is going to continue,” Valentine said.
In Washington County, those numbers jumped from 18 percent in 2010 to 2013 to 93 percent in 2014.
She’s currently working on approval to add Utah County data to the study.
Valentine said the increase could be a result of increased national conversation about testing rape kits that’s occurred over the past few years.
The statistics vary per county, and the time between when a sexual assault occurs and the kit is submitted to the crime lab is still an issue. Her research found that between 2 and 21 percent of rape kits are submitted to a crime lab within a month of when the assault took place.
Valentine said testing identifies serial perpetrators.
Her study reviewed 525 kits submitted to the Utah Bureau of Forensic Services and found nine didn’t include the DNA of the suspect. The remaining kits either didn’t have enough DNA for the analysis, had DNA that matched the suspect or had DNA for an unknown assailant that was in a DNA database.
Testing all the kits also rules out innocent suspects, Valentine said. Swift submission, she said, is also crucial.
“It comes down to justice,” Valentine said.
Valentine is also working on House Bill 200, which mandates the submission and testing of all rape kits, along with allowing for survivors to track their rape kits. The bill is currently being reviewed by a Utah Senate committee.