BYU research lab studying menstrual blood to help solve domestic violence cases

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A mailbox outside Room 3102 in the Life Sciences Building is filled with used tampons — and an all-women research team at BYU is using them to help put a stop to domestic violence.

“We are identifying endometrial tissue within menstrual blood in order to differentiate between circulatory and menstrual blood,” Kelaney Stalker, the head research assistant on the project, said.

The team hopes to make an impact at crime scenes, especially when women are victims.

“We hope to apply this in forensics cases to be able to help survivors of domestic violence,” she said.

Kelaney Stalker works in the Jenkins lab on campus. Stalker and her team are researching the difference between menstrual and circulatory blood to help solve domestic violence cases. (Abigail Gunderson)

If blood is present at the crime scene but not the victim, investigators can’t tell where the blood came from — giving perpetrators an easy cover.

“Often the perpetrator will claim that that blood is of menstrual origin, that she was on her period at the time,” research faculty leader Tim Jenkins said.

Stalker said the all-women research team makes the project especially meaningful.

“This is a project that’s meant to empower women and so it’s been really fun to have women be the ones that get to lead this out,” she said.

Volunteers donate samples of their menstrual blood, and the team draws some circulatory blood to look for differences in DNA markers. Stalker said she thinks the results will have big implications.

A sign on the Jenkins lab promotes the study. The research team is gathering samples of menstrual and circulatory blood from volunteers. (Abigail Gunderson)

“Hopefully this will be put out in the world to actually make a difference,” she said.

Domestic violence awareness month has recently come to a close, but the Jenkins lab is just getting started. As samples continue to come in the lab will be hard at work, looking for clues to help law enforcement better serve victims of violence.

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