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Trauma Violence Abuse. 2017 Oct;18(4):363-376. doi: 10.1177/1524838015622436. Epub 2015 Dec 23.

The National Problem of Untested Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs): Scope, Causes, and Future Directions for Research, Policy, and Practice.

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1 Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.
2 Harder+Company Community Research, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
3 National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, USA.
4 School of Marriage and Family Sciences, Northcentral University, Scottsdale, AZ, USA.


Victims of sexual assault are often advised to have a medical forensic exam and sexual assault kit (SAK; also termed a "rape kit") to preserve physical evidence (e.g., semen, blood, and/or saliva samples) to aid in the investigation and prosecution of the crime. Law enforcement are tasked with submitting the rape kit to a forensic laboratory for DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) analysis, which can be instrumental in identifying offenders in previously unsolved crimes, confirming identify in known-offender assaults, discovering serial rapists, and exonerating individuals wrongly accused. However, a growing number of media stories, investigative advocacy projects, and social science studies indicate that police are not routinely submitting SAKs for forensic testing, and instead rape kits are placed in evidence storage, sometimes for decades. This review article examines the growing national problem of untested rape kits by summarizing current research on the number of untested SAKs in the United States and exploring the underlying reasons why police do not submit this evidence for DNA testing. Recommendations for future research that can guide policy and practice are discussed.


offenders; reporting/disclosure; sexual assault

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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