Forensic Science Center DNA analyst delivers training on DNA's role in sexual assault investigations
Marshall University Forensic Science Center DNA Analyst Misty Marra is passionate about providing training and education to professionals who are involved with responding to sexual assault crimes.
A graduate of Marshall's Forensic Science Graduate Program, Marra has been involved with the MU Forensic Science Center's sexual assault initiative since it began in 2001. The center began hosting adult and pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) trainings more than 10 years ago for nurses in West Virginia and later expanded the offering to nurses around the United States. Marra presents a segment about DNA at these trainings.
Marshall's center also is the host facility for monthly meetings for the Cabell County Sexual Assault Response Team, of which Marra is a member. She also is a member of the West Virginia SANE Advisory Board.
A Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is a group of professionals who coordinate high-quality, victim-centered response to sexual violence in the local community. Teams may include SANEs, physicians and other medical personnel, victim advocates, members of law enforcement, prosecutors and crime lab specialists.
Marra expanded her outreach efforts outside of her position at MUFSC in 2013 by using her expertise as a forensic DNA analyst to serve in the role of faculty in the SANE-SART Online + Clinical Program, delivering training nationwide and internationally.
As part of this program, she has taken the message to Puerto Rico, Japan, El Paso and San Antonio, Texas, Seattle, Washington, and Louisville, Kentucky.
"I want members of [the Sexual Assault Response Team] to understand and be informed about what a crime lab can do for them and the role DNA can play in a sexual assault investigation," she said.
Marra recently received a certificate of appreciation from personnel at the U.S. Army's Fort Buchanan military base in Puerto Rico. The community expressed appreciation and gratitude for her dedication to assist victims of violent crime and for her support of their Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program.
The SANE-SART Online + Clinical Program, sponsored by SANE-SART Resource Service in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is an interactive online and on-site learning resource for professionals who respond to sexual assault, with SANEs being the primary focus. Marra said she joined the program because of her long-term interaction with Linda Ledray, R.N., Ph.D., SANE-A, FAAN, who is the director of SANE-SART Resource Service. Ledray is a nationally renowned expert who conducted several SANE trainings at Marshall's Forensic Science Center.
Marra is part of a team of subject-matter experts who provide training to SANEs and members of SART participating in the SANE-SART Online + Clinical Program.
The SANE-SART Online + Clinical Program provides an online webinar and on-site training. Marra delivers a segment, "DNA in the Crime Lab," for both components. During the webinar, Marra prepares participants for the on-site training with an in-depth lecture.
At a later date, the subject matter experts conduct a two-day on-site interactive scenario and mock trial in regional locations to accommodate attendees.
The first day of on-site training involves interaction among the participants, who are given roles for working a mock sexual assault case, start to finish. Marra plays the role of victim. The second day, Marra provides information about DNA and the crime lab's role in a sexual assault case.
At the Marshall center, Marra has analyzed approximately 500 forensic DNA cases, which have included homicides, sexual assaults and property crimes, as well as approximately 9,000 convicted offender samples.
Photo: Marshall University Forensic DNA Analyst Misty Marra delivers her "DNA in the Crime Lab" presentation in Japan.