Rape Kit Testing

Stan Asks:

My question for you is would a rape kit routinely be used to test for evidence of chemicals found in a condom in addition to DNA or would further tests be required? My plot has a woman getting even with a man by having her girlfriend havesex with the guy (he’s using a condom). She then gives the material to her friend who applies the sperm and claimsshe was raped.



Amryn Says:

Rape kits are routinely tested for the presence of semen and sperm and maybe saliva depending on the story the victim gives. Chemicals found in spermicide and other condom components aren’t something an analyst would test for. Depending on how long of a time lapse between intercourse and the woman applying the sperm, it’s possible the spermicide on the condom would have already degraded the sperm to the point that it isn’t detectable, but that would only occur after a long time.

 More likely, when DNA testing was performed, it would yield a mixture of 3 profiles: the man, the woman’s friend, and the woman. This is because the woman’s friend’s profile would likely be present on the condom from the intercourse she had from the man. This might raise a red flag but it would be up to the investigator to look into it further.

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Amryn Cross is a full-time forensic scientist and author of romantic suspense novels. Her first novel, Learning to Die, will be released in September. In her spare time, she enjoys college football, reading, watching movies, and researching her next novel. You can connect with Amryn via her websiteTwitter andFacebook.

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.

Forensic Issues: Collecting a Rape Kit (2/2)

Last post, I covered some generalizations about how a sexual assault victim is managed in the ED. Today, I’m going to get into specifics about how a rape kit or Sexual Assault Examination (SAE) kit is collected.

Herald Times Online

The sexual assault victim is a crime scene. Medical needs always come first. If the victim presents with life threatening injuries, these will be managed first above everything else. Collection of evidence will come at a point when the patient is stable.

In the kit are generally some large paper drapes. On the ground, we’ll lay out two large bed sheets with the towel on top. The patient (assuming she is wearing the same clothes at the time of the attack) is asked to undress in the middle of these sheets and then given a gown to wear.

Each piece of clothing is bagged in a different paper bag and labeled. I do a piece of clothing, time, date and my initials. Plastic bags are never used. Moist things in plastic will mold and disintegrate and this can damage valuable evidence.

Once the clothes are bagged, each of those sheets are bagged individually as well. This is done in hopes of collecting trace evidence that may have dropped off the patient as she unclothed.

Next, it is important to know the details of the assault as this will dictate what pieces of evidence are collected.

Mouth swabs are collected. They do need to dry before being placed in either an envelope or small cardboard box designed for these swabs.

Fingernail scrapings are collected and fingernails are also trimmed and collected as well.

The pubic hair is combed and any debris is collected in an envelope. The comb is placed there as well.

Probably one of the most humiliating parts of the exam for the victim is that known hair samples need to be collected from their head and pubic area. These must be pulled from the victim. The hair cannot be cut. The point of this is to get the hair shaft that contains DNA so this can be compared to other DNA samples that are combed off the victim.

Blood samples are collected.

A pelvic exam will be conducted by either the ED doctor, ED Nurse Practitioner or the SANE nurse. This would be outside the scope of practice for a bedside ER nurse to do but she is able to do all the other parts of the kit.

If residual fluids are left behind, these are swabbed as well. Any place where the victim may have been bitten will also be swabbed.

Remember, all swabs need to be air dried before they are placed in an envelope or cardboard container. This takes time.

Photographs are taken.

The patient will likely be prophylactically treated for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy (if they choose). Counseling will be done in these areas. Some STD’s require follow-up testing– like HIV and a follow-up medical plan will be provided for the patient as well.

For additional information on collection of a rape kit, check this source: http://www.enotes.com/forensic-science/rape-kit.

Forensic Issues: Collecting a Rape Kit (1/2)

ER nurses need to be familiar with the collection of a rape kit or Sexual Assault Examination (SAE) kit. This is good information for a novel that involves a rape victim or a character working as an ER nurse. I’m going to cover this in two parts, the first being some generalizations to consider and then I’ll move into specifics for the second post.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are nurses who have received specialized training in the collection of an SAE kit. It is not a simple one day class but multiple classes and clinical hours before the certification can be earned. It is not required that a SANE nurse be the one to collect the SAE kit. SANE nurses are not available at every hospital though you are likely to find them in major metropolitan areas.

The ED staff and police work in conjunction for the victim.

There is not a “national” standardized SAE kit. Each police jurisdiction may have their own of what they want collected.

The location of the crime is important as this will dictate what police agency handles the crime and evidence. The location of the hospital doesn’t play into this. If the crime occurred four hours away– that police jurisdiction will have to send an officer to our location.

The victim needs to give consent for collection of evidence and pictures. The victim can refuse and though we will encourage them to think about this differently, they do have the ultimate say. It is preferred that kits are collected within the first 24 hours though can be done up to 72 hours. After that time, one may still be collected but those involved may be concerned about how much evidence could be recovered and whether or not it will benefit the victim to be put through the exam.

Crime photographs are mostly managed through the police department CSI folks. Though, again, this may change in smaller, more rural locations. If you are writing specifically about a known town and a “real” hospital, it will behoove you to talk to someone there to get the details right.

If available through the police department, a victim’s assistant will come to the hospital to help the victim to understand the process. The nurse may have to advocate on behalf of the patient and ask the police if one is available. Often, these are a team of volunteers that support the police, especially during the night and weekend hours. They also receive specialized training sponsored by the police department. Smaller departments may not have one available. In that instance, an option would be to have the bedside nurse ask a chaplain to come and support the patient.

Next post we’ll talk about specifics of the kit.