Sexual assault is a traumatic event that affects people in different ways, both mentally and physically. So doctors and nurses know care immediately after an assault needs to be understanding, compassionate and sensitive. This is particularly so during forensic examinations where the main purpose is to collect evidence as quickly as possible after; but within 72 hours, of the assault. This evidence may be vital to secure a conviction and may be lost or contaminate if there is a delay.
People who have sexual assault, be they adult or children, can expect slightly different procedures depending on their state or territory. The general principles, however, remain the same. To support a conviction, evidence is require to connect the victim to the offender at a particular location. In most cases, specially train doctors or nurses collect this evidence when you go to a hospital or clinic.
Sexual assault is a traumatic event
But first, they will ensure you don’t have an injury or condition needing urgent medical care as this needs to be treat beforehand. The forensic practitioner will then explain the process and seek your consent to proceed. They will ask you for an account of the assault to know which evidence to collect. They will examine you, document injuries and collect the evidence.
The doctor or nurse uses what’s known as a “rape kit” to collect evidence. This kit contains the necessary material, including swabs, forceps, collection bags, labels and seals. Evidence may consist of your clothing; swabs of your skin; swabs taken from the anus and genital region including the vagina; fingernail scrapings; and samples from any biological or other external material find.
The doctor or nurse may collect blood and urine samples if drugs or toxins are involve; so for instance if there’s a chance you could have been drugged or poisoned. They will also take a swab from inside your mouth as a reference sample of your DNA. DNA contamination is possible, in one instance it has result in an innocent man being sent to jail. Several measures are in place to minimize the chance of this happening. An unopened rape kit is certify DNA-free. And doctors and nurses will examine you in a “clean room” if available.
The forensic examination
Their final task is to write a medico-legal report detailing what they find when they examine you and what evidence was collect. This report may be require in court and may contain an expert opinion if provide by a forensic doctor. Depending upon the circumstances and protocols in place, the police may interview you briefly before the forensic examination and then again, but in more detail, afterwards. If you go to hospital late at night, this second interview may be delay until the next day.
However, even if you live in an area without specialize forensic facilities; you can still be examine and evidence collected. In this case, forensic doctors can guide a local doctor or a nurse through the examination by providing advice over the phone. This can occur even without a rape kit by using pathology collection equipment present in all hospitals and clinics.
And if this does happen in regional and remote areas, this is usually down to not having enough facilities rather than doctors and nurses refusing to perform the examinations. Competent evidence collection may be undertake in any hospital or clinic. This is vital. Without this evidence, convictions may fail and perpetrators may be set free. Although often tedious and at times uncomfortable and tiring, these examinations are essential to ensure justice.