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  • noun A set of items used by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence following an allegation of sexual assault.


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  • I also had to perform my first New York State Sexual Offense Evidence Collection Kit, commonly (and inaccurately) called the rape kit. . . . The rape kit is a set of tools for collecting trace evidence, DNA, and evidence of sexual activity, whether consensual or not. Combined with a physical exam finding of bruising or laceration, the presence of sexual evidence might indicate the sex was not consensual—but my job was only to gather this evidence, and the police or DA would decide whether they needed it to press a charge.

    The rape kit consisted of a plastic bag with four cotton swabs and a bunch of small prelabeled envelopes, which fit inside one large envelope. The first swab was labeled to sample the vaginal vault, the second the anal area, and the third the oral cavity. The fourt swab was for "secretions." I didn't know what to do with it. . . . "Oh, that's for any suspeicious gunk you find anywhere else on the body," (a colleague) said. There was a fingernail clipper in the kit, and separate envelopes for the left and right fingernails—an assailant's DNA can be retrieved from under the victim's nails.

    Judy Melinek, M.D. & T.J. Mitchell, Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner (New York: Scribner: 2014), p. 112 (emphasis added).

    March 8, 2016