Reporting a sexual assault to police is unquestionably traumatic. Victims undergo an invasive medical exam. Police ask sensitive questions. Then, when victims get home, sometimes they have no sheets.
That's because police take clothing and fabric from the scene of the crime for DNA analysis. And while a victim is likely to have multiple items of clothing, he or she may not have an extra set of bed sheets.
So Kansas City Police Crime Scene Technician Marisa Smith had an idea: Why not leave a fresh set of sheets for victims to find when they get home?
She and her coworkers at the department's crime lab kicked the idea around for a while, but Smith was the first to put it in writing. Her proposal was quickly approved by her chain of command and in July she began collecting donations from her colleagues.
"When we respond out to a sexual assault investigation we will document the scene and we will also search and recover evidence," Smith says. "It's a very destructive process inherently — we rifle through people's things... If anybody's ever bought any bedding, it's very expensive and we kind of realized we're often taking people's only sheets."
So Smith and her coworkers started buying sheet sets to fit various mattress sizes. After processing a crime scene, they'd leave the bedding behind along with a short note for when the victim got home.
"The sexual assault investigation process is so overwhelming and so much information is given to the victims right away, so I just have a little thing on there about some department resources," she says.
Now Smith is asking the public to help build the department's supply of sheets.
To donate, Smith asks people to purchase a new set of sheets, blankets or bedding of any size, then head to any of the department's six patrol division stations and ask for the community interaction officer.