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Sexual assault: is any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent. Sexual assault includes rape and attempted rape, child molestation, and sexual harassment or threats.


Victim Centered: The Victim is at the center of all decisions regarding recovery and any involvement with the criminal justice system.The victim’s choice, safety, and well being is the focus, and the needs of the victim are a concern for everyone- not just the victim advocates. (NIJ)


Trauma Informed: Attending to the victim’s emotional and physical safety; using resources, services, services and support to increase the victim’s capacity to recover; and educating victims, service providers, first responders, and the general community about the psychological impact of trauma on the health and well-being of the victim. (NIJ)

Sexual Assault  is an epidemic in our country. Someone is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes in the United States. EVERY 2 MINUTES! In the ten minutes that I have been writing this 5 more people have been added to that list.

Sexual Assault is traumatic in and of itself and research has found that the investigative process of reporting and gathering evidence from victims can be just as traumatic when traditional rape kits are used. This 16 step process is invasive, and can be used to gather trace evidence like fibers and DNA as well as physical evidence like bruising, or other more personal injuries. Victims often have a rape crisis advocate present during their exam. A stranger to them up until the time of their crisis. Exams must be performed by a licensed medical professional and each piece collected tagged and dated. Once the kit is complete the victim is sent home and the kit is sent to law enforcement agencies for processing. This is where the survivors wait begins. It can last upwards of 30 years in some cases that have been backlogged before a hit occurs. For victims of sexual assault, psychological trauma like regression and PTSD are frequent occurrences and for many these effects are long lasting.


The Backlog: 3 Parts

Part 1: Law Enforcement - This situation happens when the rape kit is submitted to law enforcement agencies and booked into evidence for processing but detectives and prosecutors do not request DNA analysis. The kits remain there indefinitely as "unprocessed" or "unsubmitted". Essentially stagnating the closure for the victim. Reasons for this vary.
Part 2: The Crime Lab - Kits that are received here are often backlogged as they await DNA processing.

Part 3: The Victim - Some victims live in rural areas and do not go to larger cities for testing. Contact information is often out of date and people are transient. 

THE INITIAL PROBLEM: How can we use or re-purpose technologies that are currently in existence or not yet available to re-evaluate or re-design the efficiency of rape kit collection procedures? Technology focus.

REVISED PROBLEM: How can technology be used to ease and soften the communication between sexual assault victims and investigators once the forensic evidence collection kit (rape kit) is entered into CODIS and receives a "hit" or DNA match, on their investigation?  Survivor focus.

Define The Problem



  • Better System needs to be in place 

  • Better Management of systems

  • Better Technology

  • Easier Collection of Evidence

  • Less Invasive Evidence Collection


  • System for victims to use that will ease communication between investigators and victims

  • System must maintain privacy, and be a secure method 

  • Must enable the victim to have control over their re-engagement with law enforcement

  • Must be concise enough for any user to update contact information

  • Must enable victim access to their rape kit process from the start

  • Must solve the contextual problem of victim location


  • To use technology to help process evidence more efficiently

  • Rework Backlog issues

  • Discover Why it even exists *This research led to revised problem and project scope*

  • Discover new or existing technologies to help with this issue


  • Develop a prototype to enable survivors access to their information online

  • Develop a system to help survivors maintain privacy and control over their re-engagement into investigation

  • To enhance private communication between investigators, advocates, and survivors 


  • Victims of Sexual Assault

  • Law Enforcement Agencies

  • Medical Professionals

  • Government Lawmakers

  • Independent Medical Facilities


  • Victims of Sexual Assault

  • Law Enforcement Investigators

  • SANE Nurses/Forensic Evidence Collection Professionals

  • Crime Labs

  • DNA Technicians

Research & Analyze




Our intent is to follow this process as we investigate and determine new ways to use technology to solve the problem of where the backlog in this process resides and how we can help streamline and ease the overall collection process for everyone involved in sexual assault cases.


This user flow depicts the journey that someone would take through the medical "Forensic Evidence" collection path after they have been sexually assaulted. This highlights the journey from entry to the hospital to the sealing and pick up of the kit by an officer for transport to the crime lab for processing.

Proposed Study Plan
Initial Mind Map ideation of Systems
Victim Centered Process Flow


Throughout this project we will place information into our shared google doc to pull our data from. The doc listed here is a mashup of our combined thoughts, processes, and research that will then be laid out in this website as we gather more data.

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