Just Touch DNA and Sexual Assault Groping Cases

Just Touch DNA and Sexual Assault Groping Cases

Original Release Date: July 23, 2021

In episode two of our Research and Considerations for Sexual Assault Cases season, Just Science sat down with Dr. Julie Valentine, Associate Dean and Associate Professor at Brigham Young University in the College of Nursing and certified sexual assault nurse forensic examiner, and Heather Mills, Forensic Scientist Manager at the Utah Bureau of Forensic Services, to discuss evidence collection in sexual assault groping cases. 

As touch DNA evidence collection continues to develop, sexual assault nurse examiners and forensic scientists are poised to improve the investigation of sexual assault groping cases.  In their recently published article Evidence Collection and Analysis for Touch DNA in Groping and Sexual Assault Cases, Dr. Julie Valentine and Heather Mills explore the application of touch DNA evidence collection to sexual assault investigation, specifically associated with a groping case. Listen along as they discuss their article, the advent of touch DNA technology, and the importance of interdepartmental cooperation in this episode of Just Science. 

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].

Some content in this podcast may be considered sensitive and may evoke emotional responses or may not be appropriate for younger audiences. 

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Guest Biography

Dr. Julie L. Valentine is an Associate Dean and Associate Professor at Brigham Young University College of Nursing and certified sexual assault nurse examiner with Wasatch Forensic Nurses. Her research focus areas are sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and criminal justice system response to sexual violence. Dr. Valentine focuses on collaborative research studies uniting disciplines in sexual assault case reform to benefit victims and case processing. She developed a growing data set of ~8,000 sexual assault cases tracking information from evidence collection through DNA analysis–the largest database of its kind. Findings from this database have informed state and national policies and interdisciplinary practices. Dr. Valentine is very active in using her expertise and research to inform legislative policy. Dr. Valentine was appointed to the National Institute of Justice Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act Working Group in the development of national best practice policies in sexual assault cases, National Best Practices in Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach(2017). Dr. Valentine is primary author of three awarded federal grants since 2015 totaling 3.45 million dollars. Dr. Valentine has served in a variety of roles within the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), from Utah Chapter President to Director-At-Large for International Board of Directors (2020to present). Additionally, Dr. Valentine was primary author of a middle-range forensic nursing theory, the Constructed Theory of Forensic Nursing Care to serve as an international framework for forensic nursing education, practice and research. Dr. Valentine was inducted as a Fellow into the American Academy of Nursing in 2020.

Heather Mills has been a forensic scientist for the Utah Bureau of Forensic Services for over nine years. She is proficient in serology and DNA analysis (lab work and interpretation) and currently is the manager of the homicide team which is made up of analysts that perform casework in serology, DNA lab work, and DNA interpretation. She is the serology technical leader and is also an alternate member of the laboratory crime scene response team.

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