University of Central Florida Researchers Develop Forensic Tool to Assist in Sexual Assault Cases

Candice Bridge, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Central Florida, has received a $354,000 grant from the National Institutes of Justice to develop a database detailing the chemical makeup of common condoms and lubricants on the market. The goal is to fill in the gaps when DNA evidence is unavailable from a crime scene, and to supplement other pieces of evidence in sexual assault cases.

“There are no silver bullets in forensics. You collect pieces of evidence and, like pieces of a puzzle, they provide the bigger picture,” says Dr. Bridge. “This method is one way to create a link or narrow down a field of suspects.”

For example, if a specific lubricant is used during an assault and samples are recovered and then found in a suspect’s home with his or her fingerprints on it, a connection could be made between the suspect and the victim. Alone, it might not result in a conviction, but it would be another piece of evidence to build a prosecutor’s case.

Dr. Bridge has spent the last two years building and testing the database at the National Center for Forensic Science at the University of Central Florida. Her next project will focus on creating a standard analytical protocol so her work can be replicated in crime labs worldwide. Additionally, her research team is investigating how to indicate the age of lubricants, since sexual assault incidents are usually reported days after they occur.

“I want victims to know,” said Dr. Bridge, “that they are heard and there are people trying new things to bring them justice.”

Dr. Bridge has been teaching at the University of Central Florida since 2014. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Central Florida.

Filed Under: Sexual Assault/Harassment


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