Academic Forensic Pathology

The Official Publication of the National Association of Medical Examiners

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Title: Comparison of Injury Patterns In Consensual and Nonconsensual Sex: Is It Possible to Determine If Consent Was Given?
Author(s): Song Sung HoonFernandes John R.
Citation: Acad Forensic Pathol. 2017 Nov; 7(4):619-631.
Type: Review Article
Keywords: Forensic pathology Sex offense Wounds and injuries Consent
Abstract: Matters of sexual consent and sexual assault are hotly debated issues among professionals and laypersons alike. A widespread misconception of sexual assault is that most victims of sexual assault sustain significant physical trauma. It is the purpose of this review article to compare the patterns of physical injury (both genital and extragenital) in victims of sexual assault and participants of consensual sex to conclude if physical injury alone can indicate whether consent was given. Interpretations of injury have great forensic significance as it can influence the outcome of sexual assault cases. Several articles indicate that extragenital injuries are commonly found in sexual assault victims (46%–82%) and that most of such injuries are deemed minor. Articles report a wide range of genital injury detection rates in both sexual assault victims (6%–87%) and consensual sex participants (6%–73%). Usage of different examination techniques may partly explain the wide range of detection rates reported. Out of all those who sustained genital injuries, only a small portion of people required hospitalization. In both consensual and sexual assault cases, genital injuries in the 6 o’clock position were most common. Studies of genital injury lacked standardization of factors that significantly influence the results, such as time to examination after sex, examination techniques, and injury severity scales. Therefore, medicolegal personnel should be aware that sexual assault victims can present with a wide range of physical trauma and should avoid relying on physical trauma alone to conclude whether consent was present.
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