A major type of evidence that is used in prosecuting sexual assault cases and other sexually based crimes is the use of sexual assault forensic exams, or “rape kits.” You can learn more about rape kits here, as well as how to defend yourself against DNA evidence.
What is a Rape Kit?
A rape kit is where physical evidence and notes from examination of sexual assault victim is contained. The physical evidence can include:
- DNA evidence such as semen, blood, and hair.
- Clothes and personal belongings of the victim.
- Physical evidence from the crime scene like bed sheets, etc.
The physical exam of the victim can be done by either a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) or Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE). The exam includes a head to toe examination of the victim’s body, including internal examinations of mouth, vagina, penis, or anus, taking samples of blood and urine, swabs of body surfaces, and hair samples. Often during the exam, the victim will also be treated for injuries and given preventive treatments for pregnancy and STIs. The exam is free of charge because of the Violence Against Women Act.
Rape Kits as Evidence
A rape kit is an important piece of evidence in a sexual assault crime. If the assaulter is unknown to the victim and the rape kit comes back with useable DNA, the DNA profile can then be entered into a large database of profiles run by the FBI called CODIS to try and identify the person. DNA evidence increases likelihood of a conviction because it carries a lot of weight in court. However, there are defense to rape kit results, DNA matches, semen found at the scene, and other common issues in sexual assault cases.
If DNA from semen is found inside or on a victim, then it oftentimes taken at first glimpse to mean that sexual contact with the victim occurred. However, this is not always the case. Of course, DNA is not infallible because there is still a human analytic element. If the results of a DNA test are disputed, the defendant may move to have his or her own DNA testing conducted.
Many rape kits come back negative of any DNA from the person who committed the act. In those cases, the prosecution must rely on other physical forensic evidence, if there was any recovered by police. Other forensic evidence includes:
- Fingerprints taken from the crime scene or victim’s clothes/belongings.
- Hairs, fiber glass, paint, soil, shoe prints, tire marks, handwriting, or weapons found at the crime scene.
It is important to note that in many sexual assault and sexually based cases there is no physical evidence. In those cases, it comes down the credibility of the victim versus the defendant. Please click the link to find out more about the credibility of victims during trial.
If you have been accused of a sex crime, a rape kit might come into play in regards to your case. You can learn more about this by contacting an attorney.