Wasatch Forensic Nurses Position Statement on At-Home Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits
Recently, do-it-yourself or at-home sexual assault kits were made available for purchase to the public for victims of rape and sexual assault to self-collect possible forensic evidence. Wasatch Forensic Nurses (WFN) does not endorse or support these kits for the following reasons:
- Sexual assault is a healthcare issue. The primary purpose of sexual assault medical forensic examinations is to assess and address victims mental and physical health care needs. When victim’s request a medical forensic examination by a trained forensic examiner their health needs become the primary concern of the nurses and health care providers who perform these examinations. The health concerns addressed during a medical forensic examination include prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
- Victims accessing care from a skilled sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) and community or systems-based victim advocate receive comprehensive care for the trauma they have experienced during a sexual assault. SANEs work with victim advocates to provide trauma-informed care during examinations. Victims give consent for the exam and may withdraw consent for any portion of the examination at any time. Victim autonomy is always respected. Victim advocates provide information on resources to promote ongoing healing and support.
- Physical and genital injuries will not be documented without a sexual assault forensic examination. Approximately 72% of victims have physical injuries and 51% have genital injuries (Valentine & Miles, 2019). Assessment, documentation and treatment of these injuries following sexual assault is important for health, investigative, and legal reasons.
- Victims who request a medical forensic examination will be provided with free medications to prevent sexual transmitted infections or pregnancy. Medication administration with victim consent is standard procedure during sexual assault forensic examinations.
- Swabs collected in do-it-yourself, at-home sexual assault kits will not be admissible evidence in the prosecution of sexual assault cases. When evidence is collected in State of Utah sexual assault kits, SANEs maintain legal chain of custody when kits are given to police. Police, in turn, follow chain of evidence protocol when giving the sexual assault kits to the state crime laboratory for analysis. The swabs collected in do-it-yourself kits have no chain of custody; therefore, evidence would not be admissible in court.
- Victims can have medical forensic evidence collected and tested without being interviewed by law enforcement. In Utah victims may request a complete medical forensic examination and testing of their sexual assault kit without being interviewed by law enforcement. Victims who want kits collected will have them properly maintained for 20 years or until they are ready to participate with the criminal investigation.
- Do-it-yourself, at-home sexual assault kits cost money, while sexual assault forensic examinations are covered at no cost to the victim. We believe purchasing at-home sexual assault kits does not provide any benefit to victims.
Wasatch Forensic Nurses asks the community and our multidisciplinary partners (law enforcement, victim advocates, prosecutors, Title IX offices, and forensic scientists), to educate the public about the harmful consequences of using at-home sexual assault kits. In turn, we encourage sexual assault victims to request sexual assault forensic examinations through police, health care providers or hospital emergency departments within 6 days of the assault to receive compassionate care by skilled SANEs.
Valentine, J.L., & Miles, L. (2019). Anogenital and non-anogenital injuries following sexual assault in 5,700 patients seen for sexual assault forensic examinations. (Manuscript in process).