Medical Forensic Sexual Assault Examinations: What Are They, and What Can They Tell the Courts?

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August 31, 2015

A medical forensic sexual assault examination cannot determine whether or not a sexual assault was perpetrated. However, it can provide objective documentation of examination findings that, when considered in the context of all the evidence, will assist the judge and jury in reconstructing the events in question and determining whether or not there was a sexual assault. The limitation on how much a medical forensic sexual assault examination can tell the court is not only due to the fact that “rape” and “sexual assault” are legal conclusions, not medical diagnoses. 

This article explores the work of medical forensic sexual assault examination, including the evidence collected by sexual assault forensic evidence kits, the role of SANE nurses as witnesses at trial, and the judicial context in which these evidence and testimony are heard.

NOTE: Due to space constraints, the article published in The Judges Journal omitted endnotes. The endnotes are available from the author.

  • Violence Against Women and Girls


Lynn Hecht Schafran



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