Ph.D. Students Aid in Sexual Assault Case Research

Crime scene investigator examines evidence.

With the large number of untested rape kits found in police evidence rooms across the country, the National Institute of Justice funded studies in Houston and Detroit to understand the situation and develop responses. At Sam Houston State University, several graduate students have played a critical role on this project by collecting data from different sources, writing project reports that offered recommended courses of action, and presenting research findings to different audiences.

Bradley Campbell
Bradley Campbell
Dr. William Wells and three Ph.D. students, Bradley Campbell, Tasha Menaker and Seth Fallik, presented their research findings and recommendations at the American Society of Criminology’s annual meeting in November and to the Houston project working group at the Houston Police Department, which includes crime lab personnel, criminal investigators, sexual assault nurse examiners, prosecutors and victim advocates.

Tasha Menaker
Tasha Menaker
Based on recommendations from the studies, the project working group initiated several changes, including providing specialized training about sexual assaults for investigators, creating a justice advocate position to serve as a bridge between sexual assault survivors and investigators, and providing additional resources for law enforcement to investigate cases.

Seth Fallik
Seth Fallik
The National Institute of Justice launched the projects in Houston and Detroit in the wake of a study of more than 2,000 law enforcement agencies found that 14 percent of all unsolved homicides and 18 percent of unsolved rapes contain evidence that was not submitted to a crime lab for analysis. Among the reasons given for not testing the evidence were it would not have probative value; charges against the suspect may have been dropped; the suspect pled guilty; or, in rape cases, there may have been an issue of consensual sex, according to “The 2007 Survey of Law Enforcement Forensic Evidence Processing” report published by NIJ.

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