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View Full Version : Does anyone know how evidence of rape works when it comes to a rape kit?



ironpony
03-31-2016, 06:09 AM
I tried researching it, but couldn't find as much concurrence on this.

When a person goes to report a rape, and agrees to have the rape kit used, is there an expiration date on how long the physical evidence lasts? Like how much time would a person have to go to the rape kit, before the evidence is no good, if that makes sense?

Thanks for the advice. I really appreciate it.

cmhbob
03-31-2016, 06:23 AM
In theory, the evidence is held until all appeals on the case are exhausted, assuming someone is arrested, charged and convicted.

One of the things some exoneration cases are running in to is that the evidence has been discarded, so there's nothing to re-test.

Does that help?

edutton
03-31-2016, 06:27 AM
You might want to put this question in the Research forum.

mpack
03-31-2016, 06:32 AM
I tried researching it, but couldn't find as much concurrence on this.

When a person goes to report a rape, and agrees to have the rape kit used, is there an expiration date on how long the physical evidence lasts? Like how much time would a person have to go to the rape kit, before the evidence is no good, if that makes sense?

Thanks for the advice. I really appreciate it.

The longest exoneration yet involving DNA evidence collected from a rape victim was 35-years after the fact.

Of course, there are reasons why evidence isn't always available, discarded inadvertently, "used up" (each tests uses a portion of the sample), or simply lost.

ironpony
03-31-2016, 06:39 AM
Okay thanks, I should have put it in the research forum. My mistake.

I am surprised that the evidence was still preservable after 35 years. It just stays inside the body for that long without being broken down?

cornflake
03-31-2016, 06:57 AM
Okay thanks, I should have put it in the research forum. My mistake.

I am surprised that the evidence was still preservable after 35 years. It just stays inside the body for that long without being broken down?

... Evidence in a rape kit.

ironpony
03-31-2016, 07:13 AM
Oh okay. What about evidence in a person's living body. How long does that person have to get to a rape kit before it expires?

cmhbob
03-31-2016, 08:03 AM
Ah, sorry to have misunderstood. A quick Google search suggests it's more of a jurisdictional issue than a biological issue, but I'm seeing 3 days as an average.

http://www.nij.gov/journals/267/pages/extending.aspx

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7079-sperm-clock-could-pinpoint-time-of-a-rape/

That kind of question might actually be worth a call to your state police crime lab.

ironpony
03-31-2016, 08:07 AM
Okay thanks, those articles are interesting. I tried asking the police but they do not want to give out any information on how to make rape evidence inadmissible, which I can understand. It says in the one article that the evidence pertains to sperm found in a used condom. However, I don't see the rapist in my story, having any reason to leave condoms at the scene of the crime, and they have every reason to take them, with them, when they clean up and leave.

In my story the rapist uses condoms, but what if dna from above the condom got inside? Same rules apply?

cornflake
03-31-2016, 08:19 AM
Okay thanks, those articles are interesting. I tried asking the police but they do not want to give out any information on how to make rape evidence inadmissible, which I can understand. It says in the one article that the evidence pertains to sperm found in a used condom. However, I don't see the rapist in my story, having any reason to leave condoms at the scene of the crime, and they have every reason to take them, with them, when they clean up and leave.

In my story the rapist uses condoms, but what if dna from above the condom got inside? Same rules apply?

Can't imagine why they wouldn't answer that.

Why do you want to make the rape kit inadmissible? I don't think this is what you mean. It's used or it's not, and the evidence is there or it's not.

Then something like a break in chain of evidence may make it problematic in court, but collecting evidence too late for it to be viable has zero to do with admissibility.

ironpony
03-31-2016, 09:07 AM
No I don't mean the kitself is inadmissible, I mean the evidence on the victim's body, is cause of waiting too long. You're right admissible is the wrong word. I meant viable.

jjdebenedictis
03-31-2016, 09:15 AM
They comb the pubic hairs of the victim for pubic hairs that came from the assailant, so if your villains don't know that fact, they may have left evidence behind.

And a hair is probably good as evidence for a very long time. If the victim is dead and buried for a while, it might degrade, but hair breaks down slower than other tissues.

Roxxsmom
03-31-2016, 09:47 AM
I tried researching it, but couldn't find as much concurrence on this.

When a person goes to report a rape, and agrees to have the rape kit used, is there an expiration date on how long the physical evidence lasts? Like how much time would a person have to go to the rape kit, before the evidence is no good, if that makes sense?


Are you asking how long after an assault a person can wait to go in and have a medical exam that could produce admissible forensic evidence? Or are you asking how long rape kits can be stored once the evidence has been collected and processed?

For the first, it depends on some factors, like whether the victim showers, douches etc., or whether the have sexual contact with someone else. 72 hours is probably the upper limit for DNA evidence, though other factors, like injuries caused by the assault, can be present longer. The sooner the better, though, and it's best if the victim not shower, change clothes, wash, etc. before they go in for their test.

http://www.juneaupolice.com/viewindividualdispatch.php?UID=268

For the second, it really varies with the municipality and state.

https://rainn.org/get-information/sexual-assault-recovery/rape-kit

http://victimsofcrime.org/docs/default-source/dna-resource-center-documents/dna-sak-victim-brofinal.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Roxxsmom
03-31-2016, 09:52 AM
They comb the pubic hairs of the victim for pubic hairs that came from the assailant, so if your villains don't know that fact, they may have left evidence behind.

And a hair is probably good as evidence for a very long time. If the victim is dead and buried for a while, it might degrade, but hair breaks down slower than other tissues.

But the DNA is only in the hair bulb (where the papilla is) or in any living cells that come out from the follicle when a hair is pulled out. Those probably degrades much faster than the hair itself, which is actually dead tissue (empty cells with no nucleus and nothing but keratin).

ironpony
03-31-2016, 10:09 AM
Okay thanks. Well according to the one article I read, some jurisdictions will only allow for three days, so it seems like maybe more of a legal thing, than a scientific thing, in some cases. Can a hair bulb last for over three days? I meant how long before going to the rape kit is the evidence still good, not after the rape kit is stored.

If one of the victims in my story, happens to shower out of feeling sick after the rape, and wanted to get any possible STD germs off of her from the assailant, would this come off as a natural mistake for the victim to make or will the character just come off as stupid and implausible to the reader?

cornflake
03-31-2016, 10:12 AM
Okay thanks. Well according to the one article I read, some jurisdictions will only allow for three days, so it seems like maybe more of a legal thing, than a scientific thing, in some cases. Can a hair bulb last for over three days? I meant how long before going to the rape kit is the evidence still good, not after the rape kit is stored.

If one of the victims in my story, happens to shower out of feeling sick after the rape, and wanted to get any possible STD germs off of her from the assailant, would this come off as a natural mistake for the victim to make or will the character just come off as stupid and implausible to the reader?

Stupid - both for doing that before reporting a rape, and for thinking one can shower off "STD germs."

Roxxsmom
03-31-2016, 10:17 AM
It would certainly be ineffective, and it would indeed reduce the efficacy of the exam.

Whether this makes her seem stupid or not would depend on how you portray her frame of mind at the time. If she's completely freaked out by what happened, and/or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, this may feel to her like the thing to do from an emotional perspective. The rational mind can check out at times like this. Or perhaps she thinks she won't want to report the crime, or maybe hasn't processed what happened yet, or she just wants to forget it happened. That can be an aspect of being in shock too.

KiwiChick
03-31-2016, 10:36 AM
If one of the victims in my story, happens to shower out of feeling sick after the rape, and wanted to get any possible STD germs off of her from the assailant, would this come off as a natural mistake for the victim to make or will the character just come off as stupid and implausible to the reader?

Note this is just hearsay on my part, so I suggest doing serious research before you present sensitive matters like this in fiction, but...

My understanding is that rushing to shower and change clothes is a very natural reaction to sexual assault for many people, and I don't think you'd have to stretch to present this reaction as believable. I think many victims of assault don't initially intend to report it, perhaps for fear of not being believed, or because they're ashamed or feel they somehow brought it on themselves. Or maybe they just don't want to go through the legal process, which I don't think is necessarily very victim friendly.

I hope this helps.

cmhbob
03-31-2016, 11:10 AM
Note this is just hearsay on my part, so I suggest doing serious research before you present sensitive matters like this in fiction, but...

My understanding is that rushing to shower and change clothes is a very natural reaction to sexual assault for many people, and I don't think you'd have to stretch to present this reaction as believable. I think many victims of assault don't initially intend to report it, perhaps for fear of not being believed, or because they're ashamed or feel they somehow brought it on themselves. Or maybe they just don't want to go through the legal process, which I don't think is necessarily very victim friendly.

I hope this helps.

She's right on target here.

Victims have been known to discard or destroy their clothing and anything the rapist touched, if it happened in the home. Naturally, this is horrendous from the standpoint of evidence collection (cops will take all the bedding if it happened there), but any cop or CSI tech who gives your victim any grief about showering or something like that will get reprimanded, and hard. It's just not supposed to be handled that way. Unfortunately it still happens, and that kind of treatment is part of what keeps rape victims from reporting.

CWatts
03-31-2016, 02:38 PM
They comb the pubic hairs of the victim for pubic hairs that came from the assailant, so if your villains don't know that fact, they may have left evidence behind.

And a hair is probably good as evidence for a very long time. If the victim is dead and buried for a while, it might degrade, but hair breaks down slower than other tissues.

I wonder if certain 'Brazillian' grooming trends may make it harder to collect evidence?

EDIT: This would also complicate child cases, as if they could get any more heartbreaking.

robjvargas
03-31-2016, 05:22 PM
Stupid - both for doing that before reporting a rape, and for thinking one can shower off "STD germs."
Not sure about the stupid. But it's almost a trope that a rape victim shower in water almost too hot to stand. Also to scrub the skin raw.

The "STD germs" thing might not work, but the showering seems real to me.

leifwright
03-31-2016, 05:41 PM
Rape kits are more than just evidence collection. It's also an examination of the victim.

But a bigger plot point might be the fact that many jurisdictions have serious backlogs on testing rape kits after they're collected.

In numerous jurisdictions across the United States at least, there are thousands of collected rape kits that have never been tested - the majority in some places.

And there have been real cases (http://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org/events/law-and-order-special-victims-unit-behave-viewing-events) where this is an issue that later made it into the plots of fictional stories. In the case I linked to, it took six and a half years before they identified the perpetrator through CODIS.

Wicked
03-31-2016, 06:24 PM
If one of the victims in my story, happens to shower out of feeling sick after the rape, and wanted to get any possible STD germs off of her from the assailant, would this come off as a natural mistake for the victim to make or will the character just come off as stupid and implausible to the reader?

The STD part would definitely raise an eyebrow if I were reading it. I wouldn't buy it, unless the character was very very sheltered, and or very very young, and had never taken health class in school.

How the character responds to such a traumatic event is really going to depend on the character. Who are they? How do they think? In their mind, is this without question a crime, or have they grown up conditioned to all the victim blaming BS (such as calling a victim stupid for showering)?

I would expect a degree of shock immediately after, but there is no set response to how people react after the fact.
True, the shower scrubbing scene has become a trope, but there is a reason for that. Not everyone responds that way, but it is a perfectly logical mindset when someone has tunnel vision. They may want to get away, and remove themselves from the situation. They may not be thinking that far ahead.

You don't see how strong someone is when they're at their best, you see how strong they are when they're at their worst.
I don't even like wording it that way, because it implies someone who doesn't have the presence of mind to preserve evidence, and behave in a logical fashion, is weak, and that's not true.


I've known some strong, wonderful, intelligent, women, who felt it was their fault, and kept it secret. Wash it away and forget it. No police. No justice. Just them spending the rest of their life feeling guilty for something someone else was responsible for, and should have paid for.

RKarina
03-31-2016, 07:18 PM
Generally, biological evidence will remain in a woman's body for several days - however, there is no way to say how long because there are too many other factors. Has she showered? Douched? Had additional sexual activity? Gone swimming? If it's a body - has it been in water? Exposed to elements? Etc. Etc. Etc.

The short answer here is: what does your story need?
If you need the evidence to be non-viable, all you need to say is something like "there was insufficient evidence to obtain a clear sample" or "too much time had elapsed, we couldn't get a clean sample".

As for the rest... well... everyone is different...

ironpony
04-01-2016, 02:33 AM
Okay well mainly I wanted to have the shower to show how traumatized the victim is. But is it such a trope that I should use something else to symbolize that? Is their anything else the victim could do to symbolize the trauma? Since I am writing a screenplay, I want to express it visually.

As for the three day rule on collecting evidence from the body, let's say a rapist holds a victim hostage for three days after the rape, before letting her go. Does this mean that the evidence is no longer viable, cause she was held past three days, since the rape?

RKarina
04-01-2016, 06:45 AM
I don't think the shower is so much a trope as it is a perfectly natural response for a victim - they want to get clean, physically and mentally. They want to wash away the memory, the feelings, the everything. I don't know that there is anything more visual (or accurate) than a shower.

I don't know that the three day rule is hard and fast. You may be better off soft pedaling the exact timing and just indicate time passed, the victim showered, and there is not sufficient evidence.

WeaselFire
04-02-2016, 12:13 AM
If one of the victims in my story, happens to shower out of feeling sick after the rape, and wanted to get any possible STD germs off of her from the assailant, would this come off as a natural mistake for the victim to make or will the character just come off as stupid and implausible to the reader?

This is far more common than any district attorney would like. You need to start digging into the psychology of a rape and being raped. Not uncommon for the victim, male or female, to feel that it was somehow their fault. They shower to get rid of the stigma, which destroys evidence, and they wait to report the act until they have talked with others and finally processed it all into the fact that reporting is the way for them. The majority of rapes still go unreported, even after all the awareness and media attention that's existed for years.

What do you need for your story? If you need to lose evidence and have a case unable to proceed, a shower, douching and a delay before reporting can do this. If you need it to be touch and go, have the above happen but your victim not report until they hear about the next victim (there will be another). Combined evidence may help the case get to trial, or for the rapist to plead out. Think Bill Cosby. No rape kits, no physical evidence and a long time passing.

So, write this as you need for your plot.

Jeff

robjvargas
04-02-2016, 01:13 AM
I don't think the shower is so much a trope as it is a perfectly natural response for a victim - they want to get clean, physically and mentally. They want to wash away the memory, the feelings, the everything. I don't know that there is anything more visual (or accurate) than a shower.
I agree that it's natural. But being natural doesn't preclude being a trope. Not the way I understand trope.