sexual assault forensic examLast updated
After a sexual assault, a victim has the option to receive a forensic exam. A medical professional will extract DNA from their body, clothes, personal belongings, and the surrounding area. The evidence needs to be collected within 72 hours so that it can be analyzed by a crime lab.
The kit used in a sexual assault forensic exam contains instructions and tools to extract DNA samples. The term “sexual assault evidence kit” is more specific and accurate than “rape kit,” which can be considered overly casual and create a misleading picture of how the DNA is collected.
A sexual assault forensic exam is not a prerequisite to report sexual assault. Many victims delay reporting or do not get an exam due to trauma or fear of retaliation. These details in their experiences do not suggest there is anything deceitful or suspicious about their accounts.
Even if an individual gets an exam, getting identification from the kit isn’t guaranteed. Sometimes the kit does not gather enough DNA to get a conclusive result. In addition, police have not always submitted kits to crime labs in a timely manner. One notorious example of this occurred in 2009, when over 8,700 untested kits were found in a storage facility belonging to the Detroit police department. Some of the kits in storage were nearly three decades old. When law enforcement doesn’t treat sexual assault as a serious crime, it can contribute to perpetrators going unpunished even when there is tangible evidence of their guilt.
A sexual assault forensic exam is the collection of DNA for the purposes of identifying a perpetrator of sexual assault. The term “sexual assault evidence kit” is more specific and accurate than “rape kit,” terminology that can be considered overly casual and create a misleading picture of how the DNA is collected.