Sexual assault cases, like all criminal cases, rely on evidence that proves that the perpetrator committed the act of violence. However, proving sexual assault cases can be difficult, since certain pieces of evidence common in other cases may not be present. As a result, prosecutors and law enforcement officers alike look for certain pieces of evidence following an assault that can help corroborate the survivor’s story and help him or her seek justice.
#1: DNA Evidence
The most important pieces of evidence in sexual assault cases involve DNA. After experiencing an assault, experts urge survivors to visit a hospital or clinic to receive a forensic sexual assault medical exam, where a trained sexual assault nurse examiner will collect the following pieces of evidence.
- Collection of blood, urine, hair, and other body secretions
- Photographs of any injuries on the survivor’s body, including cuts and bruises
- Collection of the clothing that the survivor was wearing
- Swabs of certain areas of the body for forensic evidence, including under the fingernails, the mouth, and the genitals
In some cases, the survivor may also give forensic experts his or her bed sheets, comforters, bedspreads, and any other evidence from the crime scene. Law enforcement may also comb this area to find other pieces of DNA.
DNA evidence is crucial, since it can directly connect the perpetrator to the assault. It is important that survivors seek medical attention as soon as possible following the assault so that none of this evidence disappears.
#2: Witness Testimony
Witnesses are not always present during a sexual assault, but they may have witnessed the circumstances that led to the crime. For example, fellow party goers may see a perpetrator coerce a survivor to enter an isolated room, or notice him or her hovering near the survivor during the course of the night. Some witnesses may also encounter the survivor or perpetrator after the assault, and hear different sides of the story from each individual.
Whatever the witness sees can be valuable evidence in a sexual assault case. Prosecutors may use this evidence to corroborate the survivor’s story, highlight inconsistencies in the perpetrator’s account, and point out certain behaviors that indicate that the assault likely occurred.
#3: Impression Evidence
Similar to DNA evidence, impression evidence can directly tie a perpetrator to the scene of an assault. This evidence includes fingerprints, footprints, and even tire tracks from the perpetrator’s vehicle. Law enforcement officers will scour the crime scene for these impressions, collect them, and check the evidence against the perpetrator’s information.
#4: Psychological Testimony
Since many pieces of sexual assault evidence are circumstantial, survivors’ attorneys often rely on expert testimony to help prove that a traumatic event occurred. Psychologists, sexual assault experts, and other people knowledgeable of behavioral responses to sexual assault may testify on behalf of the survivor and present their findings to the court. They may discuss the actions, statements, and psychological impact that the assault had on the survivor, and how these signs point to assault.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault and wish to press criminal charges against the perpetrator, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. You want to collect evidence while it is still available and speak to witnesses while their memories are still fresh.
In these situations, contact a sexual assault attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will take the time to listen to your story and help you best understand your legal pathways.