Forensic Evidence Collection and DNA Identification in Acute Child Sexual Assault

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OBJECTIVE: To describe forensic evidence findings and reevaluate previous recommendations with respect to timing of evidence collection in acute child sexual assault and to identify factors associated with yield of DNA.

METHODS: This was a retrospective review of medical and legal records of patients aged 0 to 20 years who required forensic evidence collection.

RESULTS: Ninety-seven of 388 (25%) processed evidence-collection kits were positive and 63 (65%) of them produced identifiable DNA. There were 20 positive samples obtained from children younger than 10 years; 17 of these samples were obtained from children seen within 24 hours of the assault. Three children had positive body samples beyond 24 hours after the assault, including 1 child positive for salivary amylase in the underwear and on the thighs 54 hours after the assault. DNA was found in 11 children aged younger than 10 years, including the child seen 54 hours after the assault. Collection of evidence within 24 hours of the assault was identified as an independent predictor of DNA detection.

CONCLUSIONS: Identifiable DNA was collected from a child's body despite cases in which: evidence collection was performed >24 hours beyond the assault; the child had a normal/nonacute anogenital examination; there was no reported history of ejaculation; and the victim had bathed and/or changed clothes before evidence collection. Failure to conduct evidence collection on prepubertal children beyond 24 hours after the assault will result in rare missed opportunities to identify forensic evidence, including identification of DNA.



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