Forensics of Sexually Assaulted Females and Males

The forensic examination for female and male victims of cases of sexual assault and rape is a very complicated, delicate and scientific undertaking. This should be carefully done so that the necessary data and information is extracted from the process, information and data. This is important not only to the investigation of the case of sexual assault and rape. It is also important, above everything else, in ascertaining the truth considering the fact that the person who is accused of rape is bound to suffer dire consequences from his or her actions as per the criminal justice system in place. This makes forensic examination more important especially if the accused individual is innocent in the first place.

Effective forensic examination of rape and sexual assault cases are important to the victim too. This is the only chance that they have to prove to the court through the exposition of physical as well as psychological, emotional and mental trauma that they have experienced because of the occurrence of the sexual assault or rape. Forensic science is a young practice compared to other scientific practices in the field of criminal justice. Over time, it has shown how much it has evolved and how it continues to develop to become an effective and useful tool in helping brings about justice to the person who deserves it. This paper will focus its discussion in explaining the components as well as aspects, processes and methods in the forensic investigation of cases of rape and sexual assault on both male and female victims. The proper and ideal methods of forensic investigation are followed. There is a chance to analyze and look for possible procedures that could go wrong and the reason for such error as well as the ideal control and management of items that will be sent to the forensic laboratory for investigation and examination for possible information that can act as clues or even proofs to ascertain important facts that are integral to the overall case. This is something that can implicate the suspect or render false the claims of the victim pressing charges for rape or sexual assault against another individual.

In the past, cases of rape and sexual assault often feature a woman victim. In the more recent years until in the present, there are also male victims of rape and sexual assault (Payne-James 107). Rape victims are encouraged to immediately undergo rape exam which is a type of forensic examination (After Sexual Assault 3). Forensic examinations have become more and more important. Groups and agencies even offer it for free to help rape victims (Who pays for a sexual assault 4). The standard procedures for forensic investigation on sexual assault or rape cases between male and female victims have many similarities and very few differences. One of the similarities is the standard procedure for forensic investigation and the gathering of possible sources of data and information. Regardless of whether the victim is male or female, professionals encourage victims to come forward for forensic investigation immediately after the incident or before the lapse of the accepted 48 to 72 hour-window when physical evidence can still be obtained from the examination of the body.

Victims are encouraged not to bathe prior to the investigation. This may remove or destroy physical evidence like blood, loose hair and semen. Before the investigation, consent of the victim is first secured before proceeding. Crucial to any investigation of a sexual assault is the cooperation of the victim (Olshaker 251). The actual forensic examination involves the following  blood extraction for testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted disease and for pregnancy testing documentation of non-biological items that can contain evidence (i.e. clothing, personal effects, etc) and other physical evidence photography of items as well as photography of evidence of physical trauma resulting from rape or sexual assault, like bruises, wounds and other injuries hair samples and specimens are collected, from the victim and if possible the hair of the assailant left on the victim, like those in the pubic area fingernail scrapings are also collected physical examination includes the examination of vaginal, anal, oral and pubic areas for traces of semen or other indications indicative of sexual assault or rape and lastly, the pelvic examination. Acceptable items for collection of specimen and samples include sterile bottles and cotton swabs, among others.

It is important to note that forensic investigation and examination of cases of rape and sexual assault is not just focused on the examination of the body of the victim but also of the examination of the accused. It is also focused on the investigation and examination of the scene of the crime and other possible locations where evidence can be found which is important to the case. The practice of forensic examination and investigation does not start and end with the examination of the body alone. The body of the victim and the accused are very important in the forensic investigation considering the physical contact present during rape and sexual assault that creates the high possibility that evidence of the incident are most probably can be found in or on the body of the victim and the accused.

Another similarity is the use of the standard forensic investigation kit that professionals bring along and use to undertake forensic investigation regarding a rape case or a case of sexual assault. In the cases of both male and female victims, the standard kit is used since the equipments there are never exclusive to a particular gender. Off-hand, this is called by many as rape kit although in different agencies in different places all around the world involved in forensic examination, this is referred to with different names. One of which is the Vitullo Kit, in reference to the individual,  Louis R. Vitullo, who was the first to conceptualize the creation and use of such kit which has become standardized over time. Originally designed for women since women are the common victims of rape and sexual assault, the rape kit can also be used in the forensic examination and investigation of male victims as well.

If there are any differences, it would be the gender preferences of victims. In some cases, it is encouraged that the victim be allowed to choose whether to have a professional of the same gender or opposite gender to do the examination. This depends on the comfort level of the victim, considering the fact that rape and sexual assault often results to immediate emotional and psychological trauma to the patient. Every possible consideration is extended to help the victim and encourage the victim to participate in the forensic investigation and the gathering of items including biological sources of data like hair and blood to help in the case of rape and sexual assault charges once the victim decides to press charges.

The forensic examination and investigation is a set of procedures. In some cases, some of the procedures could go wrong which can result to confusion on the implication of the data and information collected and to the integrity of the overall examination, investigation and evidence-gathering processes. This is something that can be attributed to the errors that either the professional or the victim or other individuals. Even those who are involved in the post rape or sexual assault incident can impact the result of the process, since human error can strongly impact forensic investigation and its results (Kruglick 48). For example, the victims consensual sex shortly before the rape or sexual assault can complicate semen analysis among women victims. Incidental eventualities that has caused possible signs of rape when they are actually not a result of such incident in the first place (i.e. bruising from other separate incident, etc) can also confuse the investigation and data gathering and can create a different set of data. Generally, procedures can be undertaken correctly. However, the potential for wrong and incorrect undertaking of procedure can happen if the professional is distracted, emotional unbalanced at the time, or even under narcotics or alcohol, or when there is not enough caution and care in the part of the professional while conducting the examination or investigation.

In the forensic investigation of rape and sexual assault cases, there is a set of methods that are necessary so that the data collected are packed. This refers to the process of containing the items to be an examined  and are sent to the laboratory for examination. These methods ensure that the items are not contaminated or tainted and ensure that the acquiring of such items is done under the accepted and lawful methods. Any information that can be extracted from these items is legally acceptable in the court of law and is admissible as evidence in the investigation of the rape and sexual assault charges.

First, it is important that the person undertaking the evidence collection process is a trained and qualified professional, and for the forensic examiner to wear rubber gloves at all times so that his or her fingerprints do not appear on the evidence. Second, it is important in the processing of the evidence that it is photographed and labeled on sight before securing it in a sealed envelope or container. It is also important for items that will be analyzed in the laboratory to be stored in containers that does not present any risk or possibility of contamination of the item. Lastly, custody integrity and the protocol for transfer of custody of items are important so that the item that would be examined and can be a potential source of evidence is sent to the lab securely.

It is an unfortunate aspect of life that everyday, men and women become victims of rape and sexual assault all over the world. If it is any consolation to the victim, justice can be served through the role of the criminal justice system and through the important role of forensic investigation of rape and sexual assault cases. This allows the collection of evidence that could make a case strong enough for a conviction, thereby putting the culprit behind bars and removing him or her from other people whom he or she can harm with a similar criminal offense. However, this is easier said and done. In the forensic investigation, it is always important that the methods are clear and correctly undertaken. Tarnished, tainted and contaminated evidences and source of data can render any evidence unusable in the court of law. This is why it is important to stress that the work of forensic investigators are important. They should proceed with forensic investigation with caution, care and the high level of professional competency at all times.


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