Updated: Apr 4
When considering sexual assault in Mississippi, many issues need to be examined:
What type of response do we provide for victims when they present to a hospital after being sexually assaulted?
Have our tools changed and/or improved with new technology?
What chance does a victim have to receive justice in MS court system?
How do we measure success?
The Center for Violence Prevention operates a sexual assault crisis center, as well as the Bridge Forensic Clinic, and our staff responds to an average of 120 victims per year within our 10-county service area. Through this involvement, we have discovered the dangerous lack of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners across the state. The fact is that very few hospitals maintain a trained SANE in their emergency rooms to provide this exam. Due to that fact, most victims do not have the opportunity to preserve any DNA evidence found on their bodies that could help find and prosecute the offender.
As part of the efforts by the Bridge Forensic Clinic, a committee was formed to update the Mississippi kit, which was 15 years old and woefully outdated. This update is in progress and, once complete, will trigger the use of new forensic tools at the Mississippi Forensic Laboratory. This lab is run by some impressive forensic experts and does a good job for our state, but could do more if properly funded.
The most discouraging issue surrounding sexual assault is the overall lack of prosecution for rape and sexual assault in Mississippi. Center for Violence Prevention compiles court statistics from across the state in order to study trends and identify gaps in services. The unfortunate reality is that only a small number of rape and sexual assault cases ever make it to trial. In fact, only 3 rape and 130 sexual assault cases went to trial in 2019. In 2018, only 56 rape and 221 sexual assault cases were adjudicated. This low number proves that these cases aren’t going to trial, which ultimately denies justice for victims and allows these predators to continue to offend.
Additionally, any good program evaluates itself and seeks to identify gaps in service. These facts stand for themselves and indicate that Mississippi has much work to do to serve victims of sexual assault and prosecute their offenders, who will most likely reoffend. Please join with us as we seek to shine a light on these problems. Mississippians deserve to be protected from sexual offenders, so we must work together to identify victims and prosecute their offenders.
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