Preserving and Collecting Evidence After an Assault

Link to RAINN: "Preserving and Collecting Forensic Evidence"
Link to RAINN: “Preserving and Collecting Forensic Evidence”

Part of my volunteer work includes accompanying recently assaulted people through the medical examination process. It’s a highly stressful and emotional time and so it can be difficult for people to make big decisions quickly. Do you want to report? Do you want HIV testing? Suddenly, there are a multitude of questions being asked and it can become overwhelming for the victim and his/her family. Hopefully, as at my local hospital, there will be people there to help you through every step of the process, answering questions and explaining terms as needed.

I have the pleasure of working with three tremendous forensic nurses. I’ve never seen them unable to make the patient laugh, even in such a difficult setting. Our job is to do everything we can to put the patient at ease during the interviews and examination. Sometimes that means I pull a coloring book and crayons or a puzzle out of my bag. Other times it’s giving a sympathetic ear to the victim and their family members as they begin to process through the shock of the situation. We don’t want to add to the trauma and we genuinely want to see this person begin the healing process with as few barriers as possible.

It’s a frightening process and knowing what to expect can be incredibly helpful. The link above gives a list of what the victim can do to preserve the DNA of their assailant (understanding that DNA evidence only lasts so long). It also describes rape kits (which can be known by a few different names). It will also give you an idea of what happens during a forensic exam.

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