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Sexual assault and the importance of gathering DNA

For those who have been sexually assaulted, gathering DNA evidence is incredibly important. It massively increases the odds of finding the person who committed the assault, and DNA evidence stands up well in court.

To this end, the FBI runs a system called the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. In it, they use DNA evidence to create profiles of those convicted of crimes and evidence gathered after the fact. When a new victim comes forward, if there is a DNA match with someone who is already in the system, it can identify the perpetrator even if the victim can't remember identifying features, doesn't have any witnesses and would otherwise have a hard time knowing who committed the crime.

Experts note that it's important to gather this evidence even in cases where the person is not caught, as it helps to increase the size of the database and can lead to links later on. Sexual crimes are often serial events, not one-time crimes. If someone is later arrested for an assault and DNA links him or her back to an older, unsolved case, the database can help bring that person to justice years later.

Much of the value of DNA evidence is in the scientific match between each person and his or her DNA. Witness testimonies may be flawed, pictures and videos can be grainy or inconclusive, but DNA provides a very strong link that is hard to refute.

If you are the victim of sexual assault, it's important to know what the authorities need to do to gather proper DNA evidence. Be sure that you fully understand your rights and the legal process.

Source: RAINN, "The Importance of DNA in Sexual Assault Cases," accessed May 09, 2017

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