Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. Rape is a crime involving non-consensual sexual intercourse between two or more people. Non-consensual intercourse occurs when a person engages in sexual intercourse with another against that person’s will or without that person’s consent by means of force, violence, duress, menace, fear, or fraud.
In addition, in certain situations a person may not be capable of providing consent, for example if the victim is intoxicated, asleep, or suffers from a mental or physical disability that makes providing consent impossible.
What is a Rape Kit?
When someone is raped, they have the option or may be asked to undergo a forensic examination to collect any physical or biological evidence remaining from the assault.
The examination is conducted by a doctor or nurse and generally takes between four to six hours. Usually, the examination involves gathering blood, bodily fluids, hair samples and taking swabs of the genital and oral areas.
Also, photographs are taken of the individual’s body and clothing for physical evidence of the assault. All evidence collected will be carefully preserved in what is commonly referred to as a rape kit. If the person chooses to report the rape to the police, the rape kit can be used against the attacker in court.
Why are Rape Kits Used?
DNA contained in the rape kit can be a powerful tool in identifying the attacker and prosecuting them in court. Any DNA found during the forensic examination can be logged into the police criminal database or used to compare to the DNA of targeted suspects.
In addition, the evidence in the rape kit can be used to demonstrate the elements of the crime. For example, photographs of ripped clothing or physical injuries can help show that there was no consent to the sexual intercourse.
What are Rape Kit Laws?
Rape kit laws vary depending on the state. However, no state requires a rape victim to have a rape kit collected, and if collected, the victim can decline any portion of the exam. All jurisdictions have strict procedures governing collection, inventory, and processing rape kits.
Many states have statutory deadlines for law enforcement agencies requiring quickly submitting any rape kit received for testing. For example, Texas requires a rape kit be submitted to the lab for testing within 30 days of receipt. In addition, rape victims may request updates of any evidence collected in his or her rape investigation including:
- When evidence was submitted to the crime lab; and
- When the evidence in the rape kit is compared to DNA in the database.
Should I Contact an Attorney about Rape Kit Laws?
If you have been a victim of sexual assault and have questions concerning rape kits you should contact a local criminal lawyer immediately. The effectiveness of the forensic exam decreases the more time passes after the assault. A lawyer can help you navigate this process and ensure that your rights and interests are protected.