Editor’s Question: Consent for Rape Kit in Unconscious Victim

During my blog tour for Proof I had an interesting question from fiction editor, Ramona Richards, in the comments section of the blog on this post that dealt with collecting a rape kit.

Ramona: If a sexual assault victim is stable but unconscious– will the medical team do a rape kit and if so– who do they get consent from?

Jordyn: This is an interesting question on many levels. As a nurse, I’m first an advocate for the patient but also as a nurse and woman– I want to see justice happen for this woman as a victim.

The central issue is that part of the rape kit is very invasive. Particularly the pulling of the hair from the head and groin area and well as the internal pelvic exam.

No one wants to put a victim through something more traumatizing– so generally– permission must be given by the victim in order for the exam to be done.

But say– the victim looks like she is not going to wake up to give that permission?

Part of the exam can be done. External evidence and swabs can be collected. An external exam of the vaginal area could also be done. Pictures can be taken.

Likely– we’ll wait to see if the patient wakes up. Nothing should be disturbing the internal presence of the evidence if the patient is hospitalized. Exams should be done within 72 hours and one nurse practitioner I work with said semen could be preserved on the cervix for 10 days.

But what if it looks like the victim is never going to wake up?

Then it becomes an issue for the courts. They would have to issue an order for the exam to be done. So either the victim has to give permission (and no– not next of kin)– or the court would order the exam to be done.

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