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Health Care Providers > Sexual Assault > Evidence Collection

In the case of sexual assault

Evidence collected in proper time might help the victim to prove his/her case in the court of law and also by identify the perpetrator. Though collection of medical evidence is a legally mandated responsibility of the doctor, it must be understood that it has its limitations. Medical evidence can be useful only in cases where a penetrative assault has been attempted or completed and/or when the survivor has been able to put up resistance and/or if she reports within a period of 72 hours. Even in case of penetration, if the assailant has used a condom, there will be no evidence of semen. In such cases in particular, documentation of history is key.

- Collection of evidence must be with consent of the survivor.

- Make sure that urgent medical needs take priority over evidence collection.

- In order to preserve physical evidence of sexual assault, advise any victim of assault within the past 24 hours not to urinate, or take a bath, brush their teeth, or change clothes. 

- Evidence could include evidence from clothes worn by the victim at the time of the assault, that collected from the body, genital and anal evidence. The nature of evidence collected is dictated, to a large extent, by the history of assault and the nature of sexual assault reported by the woman. Details of evidence collection can be found here. Avoid unnecessary evidence collection.

- Explain the entire procedure of evidence collection to the patient. Make sure that you keep the patient informed about everything you are going to do for e.g. how you will do examination, which part are you taking the evidence from etc.

- Sometimes patients may refuse evidence collection either partial or complete. This is understandable, because evidence collection is an invasive procedure that many people might not be comfortable with. In such a situation, you must explain to them the importance of evidence collection and put them at ease. However, please keep in mind that they are entitled to withdraw consent at anytime and you should respect their decision.

- It is important to collect specimens as early as possible. 72 hours after the assault the value of evidentiary material decreases dramatically e.g. sperms are found within 24 to 36 hours.

- In case there is a history of ingestion of drugs or alcohol, a urine sample must be collected.

- When appropriate, patients should also be offered testing for pregnancy and testing for STDs like Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B, along with the other investigations required for treating injuries and secondary complications.

In cases of pregnancy:
If a woman reports with a pregnancy resulting from an assault, she is to be given the option of undergoing an abortion, and protocols for MTP are to be followed. The products of conception (PoC) may be sent as evidence to the forensic lab (FSL) for establishing paternity/identifying the accused.

- The examining doctor/AMO/CMO is to contact the respective police station, ask them to collect the DNA Kit from the FSL and bring it to the hospital to coincide with the time of MTP. The DNA Kit is used to collect the blood sample of the survivor. The accompanying DNA Kit forms are to be filled by the examining doctor. A photograph of the survivor is required for this form, and should be arranged for prior to the MTP.

- The products of conception (PoC) are to be rinsed with normal saline (NOT completely soaked in saline) and collected in a wide-mouthed container with a lid. This sample is to be handed over immediately to the police along with the DNA Kit, or preserved at -4 degree Celsius. It is to be transported by the police in an ice-box, maintain the temperature at sub-zero at all time.

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