Since I want to go into Forensic Science I decided that I would write this week’s Manic Monday for the word “kit” on a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection, more commonly known as a Rape Kit. I also thought that I would take this opportunity to try to encourage those out there who HAVE been raped to not be afraid to speak out.
Rape can happen any time and anywhere. It can happen with a complete stranger or someone you know and trust. It can be a random assault or go one for lengthy periods of time. Rape causes not only physical damage but a lot of emotional, psychological and social damage as well. Some victims of rape remain quiet about it and are afraid to come forward when it happens, oftentimes because they are traumatized and oftentimes because they are ashamed or worried that no one will believe them.
It’s very important that, in the case that you are sexually assaulted, you go to the hospital immediately and allow the police to collect a rape kit on you. This is a surefire way to not only get closure for the victim, but to also put a rapist behind bars and prevent them from doing the same thing to someone else. As difficult as it can be to have to face the nightmare all over again, it can be so extremely healing to see it through and to deal with it.
A lot of people are afraid to go to the police or to the hospital to do a rape kit because they are afraid of the process and so I am going to explain what you will be going through to diminish the mystery should anyone ever have to be in this situation. If you are a victim of sexual assault then it is very important to get to the hospital as soon as possible to preserve the evidence. No matter how badly you might want to, do NOT shower or change your clothes.
At the hospital, the first thing they will do is explain to you the benefits and the process of an HIV test and then let you decide if you want to have one done. You do not have to submit to one, but it’s very important to make sure you have not been infected by your attacker. You do NOT have to pay for the test. It is done as a service to the victim.
The next thing they will do is a blood test to make sure that you are not pregnant nor infected with any sexually transmitted diseases. You will have blood drawn from your body with a needle and it will be sent to the lab for results.
At this point, the nurses will do a thorough examination of your clothing and any injuries you may have obtained from the assault. Any tears, scratches, etc. will be evaluated and photographed. Your clothes will be taken from you and new clothing will be provided. Any markings left on your body from your assault will also be evaluated at this time and photographed for the police.
Physical evidence that may come from the scene of the assault will also be collected. Grass, fibers and hair will be collected and sent to the forensic labs for evaluation. Loose hairs found on the clothing or body are collected and the victims own hair may be needed as well… a few from the pubic region and sometimes as many as 20 hairs from the scalp so that they can accurately differentiate between the victim’s hair and the assailant’s.
During this time, the victim’s fingernails will be scraped for blood, skin, dirt or tissue to use to help determine DNA testing.
After loose evidence is collected, the nurse will then examine the victim’s perineum, thighs, abdomen, buttocks and facial area for evidence of semen and saliva and if any is found, swabs are taken to collect it for the lab. Any swabs taken are checked for sexually transmitted diseases and infections as well as to confirm DNA.
A doctor will then come in and perform a pelvic exam. The victim can choose to determine the sex of the doctor before the exam so that they may be most comfortable. During the exam, bruises, scrapes, tearing and abrasions will be looked at and evaluated and then documented and possibly photographed as evidence of the attack.
The medical personnel will determine whether or not the victim needs treatment or medication for her wounds.
Once a rape kit has been collected, all of the evidence is sealed tightly into a box and kept safely at the hospital until the police come to pick it up. It is then taken to the criminologists and forensic scientists at the crime lab for assessment and testing. It is very important that these steps be taken and the evidence not be disturbed before it reaches the lab.
As scary as it is to undergo such a thing, it is so important to follow these steps. People who sexually assault or rape others are very likely to do it again and they must be stopped and prevented from doing it to others.
If you are the victim of a rape, call 911. Get to a hospital and report it to the police. You will not be alone and can request to have someone with you at all times for support. If you are a victim of a past sexual assault then please talk to someone. Get help. You can call 1.800.656.HOPE and talk to a counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Rape is scary and it can be life changing. Getting justice and preventing your rapist from further assaulting others is oftentimes difficult, but also very healing. Seeing it through and knowing that you have done something to get a rapist off the street can help you find closure. It can change a victim into a vigilante.
When I was 16, I was held down by three girls while a male friend of theirs raped me. I was in a group home and was afraid to speak out because I thought no one would believe me and because I was afraid that my assailants would be questioned and go unpunished resulting in them getting angry with me and hurting me again. I didn’t speak out and I wish I had because, god only knows how many other women have been hurt by the guy who raped me as a result of my silence. I was afraid and had no where to turn. I couldn’t go to my parents because I doubted that they would do anything about it and as a result, I left the state and moved to Florida to live on the streets on my own. Being raped can change your life and it can destroy you if you let it. I haven’t let it destroy my life and have talked about it with counselors however,it DID change my life. I ran away from everyone I knew and I lost a part of myself by doing so. I may not be socially or psychologically effected by my rape but it has hurt me so much as it was the beginning of the end for me in other ways. I lost my family and my trust with the people I loved the most. It caused me to realize that I had nowhere to go and that I was better off on my own. I have not been destroyed by this but I do have my regrets.
I regret that I tore up my relationships with my family so badly that I couldn’t turn to them when I needed them the most. I regret that I was unwilling to speak up back then and I regret that I gave a monster the opportunity to repeat his actions on someone else. I care less about my assault than I do about the fact that I allowed this person to get away with it. That is hard to live with and I don’t want anyone else to live with it, either.
If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, please get help as soon as possible.