SBI Hosts 7th in Series of Training for Sex Crimes Investigators
Research Findings on Sexual Assault Cases: Implications for Investigators
The August session of SBI’s monthly training for sex crimes investigators featured Dr. Julie Valentine from BYU who shared information about Sexual Assault Research Findings and their implications for investigators.
Dr. Valentine began her presentation by discussing recent increases in SANE exams in Salt Lake and Utah Counties. Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 79% increase in exams conducted in Utah County and a 49% increase in exams conducted in Salt Lake County. Dr. Valentine believes this indicates that victims are trusting the system more.
Dr. Valentine and her team are currently conducting five different research studies and she asked the investigators attending the training to share any data requests or questions they might have that she can research for them moving forward.
One of the team’s major research projects involves the following three phases: victim and assault characteristics, sexual assault kit submissions and DNA analysis findings. From the first phase, Dr. Valentine’s team asked what could we really learn about victims and sexual assault in our area? Her team collects data and information from sexual assault kit submissions and aggregates it and her presentation included information about the findings from that data.
Dr. Valentine frames her research findings in terms of sexual assault vulnerabilities instead of risk factors. In doing so, the research looks more at the perpetrators of sexual assault and how they target individuals for assault.
In the class, she reviewed her research findings of sexual assault vulnerabilities involving both personal factors and situational factors. Analytics for personal factors included the following: demographics including gender, age and race; mental illness; physical or cognitive impairments; and relationship with suspect. Analytics for situational factors included the following: drug/alcohol use; suspected drug-facilitated assault; sleeping and housing status.
Much of the information that Dr. Valentine presented supported what Marlesse Jones from the Utah Prosecution Council shared in the 4thedition of SBI’s training when she presented information about trauma informed interviewing. Dr. Valentine’s research supports the fact that many of the cultural perceptions and popular myths about sexual assault are incorrect and flawed and can lead to improperly handled investigations.
The findings in Dr. Valentine’s research reinforce Marlesse Jones’ call for investigators to “start by believing.”
SBI will continue its series of trainings for sex crimes investigators and Agent Derek Coats, who helps coordinate the trainings, reminded everyone that POST is holding its week-long sex crimes investigator training in September.