I started thinking about my last post and realized that most people don’t know all the much about rape kits. Even shows like L&O:SVU, which definitely show a lot of people going to hospital for sexual assault exams don’t show much detail. On the one hand, collecting samples for a rape kit is incredibly invasive and often painful, but the more thorough the exam the more likely you are to end up with evidence you can use in court.
Other than my unhealthy obsession with L&O, I know a good bit about rape kits because of my 3 year stint with SARAH, the Sexual Assault Rape Anonymous Hotline at Wash U. During our training we had a trained SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) come in and talk us through the rape kit. The woman who came my first year explained that just following the directions on the kit isn’t really enough—a trained SANE knows to ask hard questions like “Did they lick you anywhere” because they can swab those spots for saliva. An untrained nurse might just swab where it says to swab in the instructions, and miss valuable DNA. One other thing everyone should know about getting a rape kit is that it’s both painful and unpleasant. They have to pull hair from your head, pull hair from your nether regions, swab different parts of your body, and do an examination without any lubricant (just water).
Overall, the process sounds unbelievably scary..but hopefully the new jane doe law will make it just a little easier for women (and men) after assault.