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Health Care Providers > Sexual Assault > Sexual Assault History

In the case of Sexual Assault

History about the incident, specifically in the survivor's own words verbatim written has evidentiary value in the court of law as this is being recorded by neutral and unbiased doctor. The doctor should record it completely as it may be the first opportunity for the survivor to narrate her history. Moreover, the history of assault that you elicit from the survivor will dictate provide the necessary pointers for examination and evidence collection that follows.

Keep in mind that it is very difficult for most survivors to talk about an episode of assault and the woman might not want to tell you all the details. Be very sensitive of this and explain to the survivor that the process of history taking is important for further treatment and for filing a case if needed. Talk to the survivor in a non-threatening environment. An accurate history can be obtained only by gaining the trust of the survivor and not by accusing him/her of lying.

It is observed that generally health professionals are awkward while asking history of sexual act. They often do not have the language to ask about the details of the assault and this can be a barrier to eliciting a good history. Please remember that if details are not recorded properly it may weaken the survivors testimony. History of oral sex, anal sex & masturbation is to be asked in simple language. In case of minor children, illustrative books or a doll can be used if available, to elicit the history of the assault.

In case of hearing or speech impaired persons, please ensure you have contacts of specialists who can communicate with the survivor.

You must note down the following points when history taking:

- Details of the place of the assault, time, nature of the force used, areas of contact are recorded here. If the assailants are known, please ask and mention the names of the assailants.

- If any sensitive information is revealed (such as identity of assailants) it is better to have the identity (name) and signature of the informant (survivor or her parent/guardian in case of minor) on the proforma.

- Information collected on activities like bathing, washing genitals (in all cases) rinsing mouth, drinking, eating (in oral sex passive agent) has bearing on the evidentiary outcome of trace evidence collected from these sites

- Please specifically note history of injury marks victim may state to have left on the assailants body as it will eventually match with the findings of assailants examination.

- If the survivor was threatened either physically of verbally, please mention weapons or objects used. Pushing banging, slaps, kicks, blows with sticks, knife attacks etc. are examples of physical violence. If such history is revealed, then the survivor may have had blunt trauma which requires to be looked for in examination.

- Verbal threats should be recorded in survivors words: eg; Harming her or her near and dear ones. For a small child even disclosure of events of rape will amount to threat.

- Information regarding attempted penetration or completed penetration by penis/finger/object in vagina or anus or mouth should be properly recorded with information about emission of semen.

- Information about emission of semen outside the orifices should be elicited as swabs taken from such sites have evidentiary value.

- Information regarding use and status of condom during the assault is relevant because in such cases, vaginal swabs and smears would be negative for sperm/semen.

- If there is a history of last consensual sexual intercourse in the week preceding the assault, it should be recorded as detection of that sperm/semen has to be ruled out.

- If the survivor is menstruating at the time of examination then a second examination is required on a later date in order to record the injuries clearly (if any).

- Because of menstruation some amount of evidence is lost. Hence it is important to record whether she was menstruating at the time of assault/examination.

- The same applies to bathing, douching, defecating, urinating and use of spermicide.

- If there is vaginal discharge, comment on the type ie texture, colour, odour etc.

- Try not to leave any gaps in information/blank spaces on the form. If you are thorough in history taking, it will strengthen the woman's case immensely.

- If the survivor was intoxicated during the assault, and does not remember details, you may write 'Don't know', but please mention the reason for doing so.

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