Authors: Heather C. Melton and Summer Stewart - University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States.



Sexual assault continues to be a major societal and criminal issue. Particularly detrimental is sexual assault committed against children. Children who experience a sexual assault are likely to suffer from multiple negative outcomes including increasing their risk for juvenile delinquency and mental health issues. A sexual assault kit is one tool that the criminal justice system uses to bring justice for victims and hold offenders accountable for their behaviour. It provides often vital evidence that can potentially be used in the prosecution of these cases. Yet it has become clear that many sexual assaults are never submitted to crime laboratories for processing. This paper explores previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits of child/adolescent victims. Characteristics of the victims, the case, and the police report are explored. Additionally, these kits are compared to kits with an adult victim to further our understanding of the problem. Findings include: over 20% of the unsubmitted sexual assault kits had a victim under 18, the highest number of unsubmitted kits for children were for victims between the ages of 15-17, the majority of child victims knew their offenders, and cases associated with child kits were more likely to be moved forward at the time of the original incident (without the kit being submitted) than adult cases.  Ultimately, the goal is to improve our overall response to all victims of sexual assault.


Keywords: Sexual assault; Child victims of sexual assault; Adult victims of sexual assault; Sexual assault kits; Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI); Criminal justice response to sexual assault.

Vol 2, Issue 1, April 2021