KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Crime scene technicians with the Kansas City Police Department are covering a basic need for victims of sexual assault.
If technicians collect bed sheets from a victim’s home, as part of their investigation, they will leave behind a clean set.
“This is something that can have an immediate positive impact on our community,” said Marisa Smith, the crime scene technician who came up with the idea.
Smith has been working in KCPD’s crime lab for five years. She said the process of collecting evidence is “destructive” and can be extremely overwhelming for victims.
“Inherently, we rifle through peoples’ things and we’re fingerprinting and swabbing things,” Smith explained. “(Victims) come home, and (their) house has been gone through, (their) sheets are gone, and (they) have to go out of pocket for that.”
Smith didn’t want victims worrying about paying for new sheets, so she suggested leaving a clean set at victim’s home following an investigation.
“We realized we’re often taking people’s only sheets, and it’s just another thing that adds on to that process of being a sexual assault victim,” Smith said.
In July, Smith and her co-workers in the crime lab started using their own money to pay for new linens that are kept in a closet at the lab. The small gesture is meant to offer a bit of comfort and support for victims.
“This small thing can give that victim confidence that we care and that we are taking this very seriously,” Smith said. “I want that victim to realize we do believe you and we think you’re a valuable member of this community.”
Taylor Hirth is a survivor of sexual assault. She was gang-raped inside her Independence home in 2016 while her daughter laid next to her.
“It never leaves you,” Hirth said. “You just learn how to work around it.”
She lost trust in police because of the way her case was handled but applauded the effort made by KCPD crime scene technicians.
“There’s just so many things that a victim has to consider in incidents like this,” Hirth said. “For them to show that kind of a gesture of respect and dignity is invaluable to someone that’s going through a trauma like that.”
She said the gesture sends a message of compassion to rape victims.
“I’m just glad people in the law enforcement community are taking the initiative to show some compassion and bridge the divide that exists right now between victims and police officers,” Hirth said.
The gesture is validating for Smith and her co-workers because it provides a basic necessity for victims who need time to heal.
“I think that we can do a lot more for sexual assault victims and this is just a small part of what we can do for them,” Smith said.
Anyone interested in donating new, unopened sets of bed sheets to the crime lab can drop them off with community interaction officers at any KCPD station.