Volume 23, Issue 4 (October 1978)
Utilization of Medically Obtained Evidence in Cases of Sexual Assault: Results of a Survey
Recent studies of the problem of sexual assault [1–3] have reached a consensus that physical evidence is valuable in investigations of such incidents. While physical evidence such as fingerprints, footprints, and tire tracks may be obtained in many cases of sexual assault, the physical evidence most frequently encountered in such cases is the biological material transferred during sexual activity: hair, semen, blood, and other fluids or tissues. The collecting of such evidence is the province of the emergency room physician (or medical examiner, if the victim is deceased). The victim of a sexual attack who suffers trauma, or fears pregnancy or venereal disease, will probably seek medical treatment. If the victim reports the assault to the police she will also almost certainly receive a medical examination. This medical examination not only provides a basis for further medical treatment but also serves as the primary opportunity for the recovery and preservation of potentially valuable physical evidence.