On a very basic level, rape is a crime involving non-consensual sexual intercourse between people. Non-consensual means that at least one person has not given consent to the sexual intercourse, whether that means that the person is assaulted by means of force, violence, threats, fear, or fraud.
In certain situations a person may not be capable of providing consent (like if they are intoxicated or suffer from a mental disability that makes consent impossible). There are several different types of rape, such as marital rape or date rape. However, the basic elements of the crime of rape remain the same.
What is a Rape Kit?
A rape kit, also sometimes called a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit, is an exam that collects forensic evidence of sexual assault from a person who has been assaulted.
The kit itself includes a checklist, materials, and instructions on how to properly collect the evidence. There are also envelopes and containers to package what is collected. Generally speaking, common items in the kit include:
- Bags and paper sheets for evidence collection;
- Materials for blood samples;
- Swabs; and/or
- Documentation forms to document any evidence found.
The evidence collected with the rape kit includes bodily fluids (like semen or saliva), hair samples, and fibers from clothes. The clothes the victim wore during the assault will be collected, and the nurse or technician performing the rape kit will also take photographs of the victim’s injuries.
After the kit is completed, the technician will also take a blood sample, which will be tested for infections, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pregnancy.
Who Performs the Rape Kit Exam?
Not every hospital or clinic has someone on staff who is trained to perform a rape kit. While a nurse or other healthcare technician may be perfectly capable of following the instructions in the kit, you may still be uncomfortable due to the nature of the examination.
You can ask whether the facility has a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) or a Sexual Assault Examiner (SAE) on staff. These healthcare professionals have been instructed and trained how to perform how to complete a rape kit as well as how to interact with recent survivors of sexual assault.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Rape Kit?
The process of collecting evidence can be slow and painstaking. The nurses or technicians performing the rape kit will be careful, but they also try to be as thorough as possible so that no important evidence is overlooked. Generally, the collection of forensic evidence takes a few hours. Of course, the actual time that the kit takes can depend on a variety of different circumstances.
Because the kit looks for evidence of many different types, it does involve being poked, prodded, and swabbed. It may be uncomfortable, especially for someone who has been assaulted and already undergone a traumatic experience. However, it is an important step in trying to identify and collect evidence against the attacker.
How Should I Prepare for a Rape Kit Examination?
If you have been sexually assaulted, it is completely understandable and natural to want to clean yourself. However, you should try to avoid doing anything that could potentially damage any evidence on your body. If at all possible, avoid:
- Using the restroom;
- Changing your clothes;
- Combing your hair; and
- Cleaning up the area.
If you have done any of these, you can still have an exam. However, you run a better chance of collecting stronger evidence if you haven’t done anything to wash away any DNA or other evidence that could be present.
In many cases, DNA evidence should be collected within 72 hours in order to be properly analyzed, but the rape kit can collect other forms of evidence, as well. If you decide to report sexual assault, it is a good idea to place the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault along with your belongings in a paper bag to preserve evidence.
What is the Rape Kit Used For?
The rape kit is an important part of collecting evidence. The forensic evidence that is collected as part of the kit can help to identify the attacker or attackers, and may potentially be admissible in court later on.
What Happens to the Kit After it is Completed?
The kit and exam are usually completed at a hospital, and analysis is done on the samples that are retrieved. Once this is finished, the kit is turned over to law enforcement, who will attempt to find a match to a suspect.
The tool they use is an FBI database called CODIS, which has a registry of DNA samples for those who have committed felonies. If the DNA collected in the kit matches a DNA sample in the CODIS database, the police may investigate that matched person as a suspect.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I Need to Undergo a Rape Kit Examination?
Rape kit collections are only a small part of an investigation into a sexual assault. While the evidence collected with the kit is valuable, there are other techniques that law enforcement may use in order to investigate the crime and find a suspect.
If you have questions about how a rape kit is used, or want to find out if a suspect has been identified, you may want to contact a criminal attorney. An attorney can help guide you and support you through an investigation, and can work to protect your interests in a situation where you may feel vulnerable.