Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rural areas lack examiners for victims of sexual assault, says government watchdog report

Rural areas have a severe lack of medical examiners to collect DNA evidence from victims of sexual assault, says a report from the Government Accountability Office, Danielle Paquette reports for The Washington Post. "The study, which looked at six states—Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Oregon—found that the supply of examiners in each was too small to cover the need for sexual assault exams, especially in rural areas."

Study authors said "more attention must be paid to rural communities, where rape investigations are more likely to end before they can begin," Paquette writes. Officials in Wisconsin and Nebraska said nearly half of counties lacked a single examiner for patients requesting a rape kit, while just one Colorado hospital has staff examiners available 24 hours a day. One problem is a high turnover rate. Of the 540 examiners trained in Wisconsin, only 42 were still on the job within two years.

U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that nearly one in five women in the U.S. has been sexually assaulted and only 32 percent of rapes lead to a police report, with only 2 percent of those leading to a conviction, Paquette writes. Katherine Iritani, who led the study, said most states keep no data on their sexual assault examiners and  many examiners receive inconsistent training. "Though the actual number of examiners in the U.S. is unclear, 227 programs in 49 states received government grants to train about 6,000 examiners in 2013, the most recent data show. (The Justice Department set aside more than $100 million to strengthen community responses to sexual assault.)" (GAO map: Sexual assault examiners who received training through federal grants in 2013)

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