One-in-10 sex assault victims have forensic evidence stored

One-in-10 sex assault victims have forensic evidence stored

One-in-10 of those attending a sexual assault unit over a four year period had the forensic evidence stored to consider informing An Garda Síochána at a later stage.

One-in-10 people who attended a sexual assault treatment unit over a four year period had forensic evidence stored to allow them to consider informing An Garda Síochána at a later stage.

The research, published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science, outlines how storage of forensic evidence without reporting to An Garda Síochána, known as Option 3, was introduced in August 2016, and in the four years to the end of July 2020, there were 1,258 attendances to the Dublin Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATU), with 10% choosing Option 3.

It gives people the opportunity to access responsive SATU care "including storage of forensic evidence which may have significant evidential value".

Overall, 31% of those attending the SATU did so within 24 hours of the assault, 62% said the assailant was a stranger and recent acquaintance, and in 16% of all presentations, "Drug facilitated sexual assault". 

A third of assaults occurred outdoors and one-in-five at the assailant's home.

Of those who chose option 3, 93% were female, the mean age was 26 and 70% said a sexual assault had occurred and the remaining 30% were unsure.

It said 20% of those 127 people subsequently reported the incident to gardaí, 60% within seven days, and 80% within one month.

Attendances at Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATU) in Ireland are increasing year on year

Of those who subsequently reported to gardaí, four-in-five had their evidence retrieved by gardaí for analysis. Another 3% — four people from the initial 127 — requested that their evidence kits be kept for an additional year.

"None of these patients reported over that following year, and their evidence was subsequently destroyed," it said, adding: "the fact that 20% of those who availed of this option subsequently reported to AGS underpins the value of the initiative in increasing reporting of sexual crime".

According to the study, entitled 'Collection and storage of forensic evidence to enable subsequent reporting of a sexual crime to the police “Option 3”— an Irish experience', "Attendances at Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATU) in Ireland are increasing year on year, although the true prevalence of sexual crime is unknown and is likely a lot higher than reported."

It said the purpose of Option 3 for those 18 years or older ensures that forensic evidence is collected and stored securely within the SATU and "gives a patient time to decide whether they wish to engage with the criminal justice system and ensures that vital evidence is not lost should a formal complaint subsequently be made".

The authors, who include Dr Maeve Eogan, obstetrician, gynaecologist, and head of the Rotunda SATU, as well as Dr Daniel Kane (SATU forensic examiner and Higher Specialist Trainee in Obstetrics and Gynaecology) and Ms Christine Pucillo (Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) SATU), said prior to Option 3 "people had to make an 'all or nothing' decision in terms of collection of forensic evidence."

Dr Eogan said: "While there is no statute of limitation on reporting sexual crime, so people could have always gone on to report an incident, even many years after it occurred, the benefit of this initiative is that we securely store the forensic samples in SATU so these forensic samples can then be released as part of any subsequent investigation. 20% went on to report the incident to An Garda Síochána, and most who did so reported within the first month."

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