News National Sexual assault kits: Mother of victim calls for mandatory testing of DNA evidence

Sexual assault kits: Mother of victim calls for mandatory testing of DNA evidence

There's been a call for the mandatory testing of all sexual assault kits. Photo: AAP
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A Melbourne mother whose teenage daughter was violently gang-raped late last year has called for the mandatory testing of DNA evidence collected from victims, following revelations that thousands of sexual assault kits never make it to a lab.

Sharon, whose name has been changed to protect her 15-year-old daughter’s identity, said she was shocked to learn that many kits are not tested after being used to collect crucial forensic evidence from victims.

“To me, it just makes total sense,” she told The New Daily. “This is vital information. This is vital to the security and safety, potentially, of citizens and everybody out there.”

Sharon said the circumstances of her daughter’s rape, which was perpetrated by two teenage boys and left the victim with “horrific” internal injuries, left her with little doubt that her attackers would re-offend.

“What happens if, in the future, these two young men, one on their own or together, does this to somebody else? Maybe this is the start of lifelong serial sexual offending,” she said.

The things that were said, the use of language, the injuries were so concerning to me that I cannot think that they will not do this again, or that they have not done this before previously.

“There’s just too many elements that really point to more the fact that it will happen again, unfortunately.”

A New Daily investigation this week revealed that at least 6741 sexual assault kits collected from victims have gone unprocessed in the last decade, squandering crucial DNA evidence that could solve countless crimes and nab serial predators.

With most states and territories keeping minimal or incomplete records, the true number of untested kits around the country is likely to be significantly greater.

In the United States, the discovery of huge backlogs of untested kits in storage has led to the introduction of laws requiring the counting and testing of all kits, even in cases where a prosecution does not go ahead or a case is solved without forensic evidence.

A sexual assault storage depot in the United States where the backlog is being cleared. Photo: Getty

In cities such as Detroit, Memphis and Cleveland, the testing of old kits has identified countless repeat offenders and sparked hundreds of fresh indictments.

Karen Willis, executive officer of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, said there was a reluctance to test kits in this country as a matter of course because of cost and resources concerns.

“From my perspective, I think that’s a fairly poor argument because what we do know is if police do process a kit and it comes and says actually we’ve got three other complainants saying the same thing about this bloke, and none of you know each other, that’s really good evidence,” she said.

“Then people are much more likely to make a complaint to start with.”

Sharon said her daughter had evidence collected from her body during medical treatment but has been reluctant to proceed with a prosecution because of the trauma – meaning that her kit is unlikely to ever be tested.

“The police explained there was a lot of money involved in the testing, and there was a lot of human hours involved,” she said.

Whether or not her daughter changes her mind, Sharon hopes authorities will consider reform to mandate the testing of all DNA evidence in sexual assault cases.

“There can only be potential benefit from it,” she said. “And maybe that’s the difference between something else horrific happening. Life and death.”