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EVAWI > Resources > Forensic Compliance > FAQs > Converted Cases
Forensic Compliance Frequently Asked Questions

Note: The information on this website is designed to: (a) communicate the requirements of the Violence Against Women Act (as reauthorized in 2005 and 2013), and (b) offer recommended practices for implementation. The goal is to highlight examples of communities striving to achieve a higher standard of the “spirit of the law,” rather than simply meeting the “letter of the law” for VAWA forensic compliance.  It is critically important that readers consult state laws and regulations, as well as local policies and protocols, because they may have additional requirements beyond those included in VAWA 2005 and VAWA 2013. For more information specific to your state or territory, contact the STOP Grant Administrator or coalition of advocacy organizations providing services for sexual assault victims.  A listing is available from the website for the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.

Q What are converted cases?
Q How important is DNA evidence for investigating and prosecuting converted cases?
Q How often is there DNA evidence in a converted case? How often are there multiple perpetrators or contributors to the DNA sample?
A What are converted cases?

This is the term used to describe a sexual assault case where the victim had a medical forensic examination but was initially unsure about whether or not to participate in the criminal justice process. For victims who later decide that they will participate in the criminal justice process, this is described as ‘converting’ to a standard reporting process. At that point, the case may be handled like any other report coming in to law enforcement following the traditional path.

For military personnel, this will refer to a sexual assault case that begins with a restricted report and later converts to an unrestricted report (whether this is voluntary on the part of the victim or involuntarily, against the victim’s wishes).
A How important is DNA evidence for investigating and prosecuting converted cases?

There is no specific difference in the role of DNA evidence for converted cases versus others. However, this is an area that is rife with assumptions, misconceptions, and confusion.

For detailed information on the role of DNA in sexual assault investigations, please see the OnLine Training Institute module entitled: Laboratory Analysis of Biological Evidence and the Role of DNA in Sexual Assault Investigations.
A How often is there DNA evidence in a converted case? How often are there multiple perpetrators or contributors to the DNA sample?

There are no data specifically addressing these questions regarding how often DNA is present in converted cases or how often they involve multiple perpetrators. In fact, we need a great deal more information about virtually every aspect of converted cases, and community professionals are encouraged to begin collecting data to track the processing and outcomes of exams that are conducted with a victim who is initially unsure about participating in the criminal justice system.

However, we can speculate that the findings will be generally similar to other sexual assault cases. In most jurisdictions, the evidence collection procedures conducted during an exam are identical, regardless of whether the victim has decided to participate in the criminal justice process. There are some exceptions, however, including California (where a modified exam is often used for victims who have not yet decided to talk with law enforcement) and Texas (where dry storage is used, so victims who are unsure about criminal justice participation are not asked to provide any blood or urine samples). Because the exam is typically the same – regardless of whether or not the victim is initially talking with law enforcement - it is reasonable to speculate that the evidence recovered will be generally similar. Differences would only be seen if there were underlying characteristics of the assaults that varied (e.g., if victims who were assaulted by multiple perpetrators are more or less likely to have an exam without law enforcement involvement). This is a question that only future data collection can answer.

For recommendations on data collection in this area, please see the Data Collection tab within the forensic compliance section of the EVAWI website, as well as the OnLine Training Institute module entitled, The Earthquake in Sexual Assault Response: Implementing VAWA Forensic Compliance.

Additionally, the OnLine Training Institute module entitled Laboratory Analysis of Biological Evidence and the Role of DNA in Sexual Assault Investigations explores the complex role of DNA in a sexual assault investigation, including the alternative sources of DNA evidence and their potential significance or impact on a sexual assault investigation. A number of resources and tools are provided, along with a series of complex and interactive case examples.
This project is supported by Grant No. 2013-TA-AX-K045 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.
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