Date of Award

Summer 2020

Degree Type


Director of Thesis

Kathryn Luchok

First Reader

Marie Sazehn

Second Reader

Marie Sazehn


Within the last few decades, technological advancements and an improved understanding of biological materials have led to an increase in evidence that can be submitted for forensic testing in criminal justice investigations. In a sexual assault investigation, a sexual assault kit (SAK) is often collected and contains the evidence found on the victim’s or suspect’s person. While the true total is unknown, it is estimated that several hundred thousand untested SAKs remain in the custody of law enforcement and forensic crime laboratories across the United States. Whether these SAKs were neglected due to law enforcement bias, the prioritization of other types of evidence, or the limited testing capacity of crime laboratories, each kit represents a victim of sexual assault who potentially underwent the invasive collection process for nothing. Testing SAKs can not only provide investigative leads in individual cases but can also identify serial rapists by connecting multiple crimes together. Although the federal government has established minimal guidelines for SAK testing, it is largely up to state and local jurisdictions to implement protocol regarding testing newly collected and backlogged SAKs. Reformation efforts are largely location-specific, as revealed by an analysis of SAK testing in the Carolinas. North Carolina is well on its way to instating comprehensive SAK reform—having almost completed a statewide inventory, implemented a tracking system, mandated SAK testing, and efficiently allocated funding. South Carolina is only a few steps behind having recently passed a bill requiring a statewide audit and tracking system.


© 2020, Jessalynn C. King