A forensic medical examination is an invaluable way to collect evidence against a perpetrator. Since the great majority of victims know their assailant, the purpose of the medical examination is often not to establish identity but to establish non-consensual sexual contact.
A forensic medical examination is carried out by a qualified Forensic Physician (FP) with the help of a trained Crisis Worker or Sexual Offence Liaison Officer (SOLO), if you have reported to the police. The aim of the examination is to collect and document evidence; which may include:
- Taking a history of the assault
- Documenting the general health of the victim, including menstrual cycle, potential allergies, and pregnancy status
- Assessment for trauma and taking photographic evidence of injuries
- Taking fingernail clippings or scrapings
- Taking samples for sperm or seminal fluid
- Combing head/pubic hair for foreign hairs, fibres, and other substances
- Collection of bloody, torn, or stained clothing
- Taking samples for blood typing and DNA screening
The duration of a forensic examination can vary depending on the number of samples required by the doctor or nurse. This will be discussed with you at the start of the procedure. Although we appreciate that for many people, the thought of undergoing a forensic medical examination is both scary and deeply unpleasant, you can be assured that everyone is treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect.
In most cases, a forensic examination is performed within 72 hours of the assault, though DNA can still be found up to 7-10 days after the assault. However, it is always worth obtaining advice before discounting a forensic examination. Even if the opportunity of collecting forensic DNA has passed, the investigation can still continue. You should also consider speaking to someone about sexual health screening and pregnancy.
You can assist with the retrieval of evidence by trying to:
- Not drink, eat or smoke immediately after the assault
- Avoid going to the toilet if possible (Take a urine/faeces sample if you can)
- Avoid disposing of sanitary products – keep tampons and towels in a paper bag.
- Write down the names of any potential witnesses
- Avoid washing clothes and cleaning shoes
- Keep any underwear
Preserve any evidence used by the offender i.e. cigarette ends/beer bottles etc