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What is a Rape Kit?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The biological and physical evidence collected from a victim of a sexual assault is collectively known as a “rape kit.” The term is also used to describe a case which holds necessary equipment for carrying out an examination on a rape victim. A rape victim is always allowed to decline a rape kit and still receive medical treatment, although collection of evidence is strongly encouraged. In addition to leading police to the perpetrator, a rape kit can also bolster the case in court, should it come to trial.

Being sexually assaulted can be extremely traumatic. For this reason, many communities have Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs). The members of a SART receive special training in dealing with victims of assault and collecting evidence. They commonly include medical personnel, law enforcement, and employees of a crisis center who can provide advice, counseling, and support to victims. Generally, SART representatives recommend that a rape kit be collected with 72 hours of a sexual assault.

An examination after a sexual assault usually starts with taking photographs of the victim and collecting his or her clothing. Next, medical personnel treat any emergent injuries which require care, while documenting these injuries for the record. Blood and urine samples are taken, and swabs of the oral and genital area are collected as well. Commonly, samples of the victim's hair will be taken, and a nurse will collect biological evidence which may convict the attacker, such as bodily fluids and hair. In addition, the patient will usually be offered prophylactic treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, if these are concerns.

Since this examination can be upsetting, having all the necessary equipment ready to hand is very important. This minimizes traffic to and from the examination room, allowing the medical staff member to focus on the patient's medical as well as physical care. In many hospitals, there is a special room set aside for the collection of evidence in assault cases. The room may be decorated in a more friendly way, and it often includes a private bathroom.

In many regions, a hospital can collect a rape kit and hold it while the victim decides whether or not to report the crime to the police. Privacy laws may also prevent the hospital from disclosing the name of the victim, although the hospital may report the crime to law enforcement. For patients who are not sure about whether or not they want to prosecute, collecting and storing the rape kit is like a form of insurance.

Once reported to law enforcement, representatives of a criminal lab pick up the rape kit and subject the contents to analysis. Lab work may establish who committed the crime, or at least provide valuable clues. Along with other evidence in criminal cases, a rape kit is closely guarded once it has been collected, to reduce the risk of evidence tampering or contamination.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By Deadcutie — On Jun 21, 2020

@ANON940923: Yes, normal sex can cause all that and blood. Most people would be disgusted at what a vagina looks like after a night of sex, especially if it was rough. These kits are called rape kits or sexual assault kits, but really all they can prove is a person had sex and or prove a certain individual committed an offense. Often, the case actually comes down to other factors as a whole when combined with a rape kit that determines if rape has occurred.

By anon940923 — On Mar 20, 2014

Is it normal during the act of consensual sex for there to be a small amount of vaginal bruising but no blood, vaginal tears, black and blue marks, torn clothing? I believe that someone I know is playing the rape card after she voluntarily had sex with someone who wanted her for nothing more than that -- sex.

By slb — On Nov 19, 2013

I need your help! My husband has been accused of child molestation and convicted of this crime. The alleged crime happened in 2008 and we are now in 2013. He is in prison now. They based the conviction off of a diary.

The first diary was given to the alleged victim in December 2009. My husband left her mother in September 2009. She claimed that she wrote about the incidents days later in this diary. How can this be possible? How can she write about incidents in a diary if he was nowhere in this state? She stated that she witnessed my husband have sex with her and he stopped when white stuff came out, but she pretended to be asleep with her brother right next to her in the room each and every time the alleged incidents happened.

There was no DNA. The mother never got a medical examination for the daughter, either when she found out during depositions or even trial. The daughter wrote in her diary that she had secrets and she also stated that she didn’t know he did this to her until he told her one day. What? She just admitted that she saw each and every act, but wrote in her journal that she didn’t even know he did anything until he told her?

Can DNA be used or even a rape kit, since it has been five years later? Please help. He has five kids and I love him. He didn’t do this. They convicted him from a diary that was written in 2011 during the same time he and her mother got into an argument. Remember, the first diary was lost and given to her at a time when he wasn’t around. Please help. Please help.

By anon355560 — On Nov 17, 2013

By anon351303 — On Oct 12, 2013

My brother is being charged for the rape of a 65 year old woman. He is 61 yeas old and impotent with several health problems and is also taking lots of medicine. He says he can't remember doing it and is most certainly out of his character.

She says she had a hysterectomy 10 years ago and has not had sex since that time, and because she was bleeding they are calling it rape. She said they had to do emergency surgery and that is when they discovered her being raped. Is this possible? My brother has a public defender and is facing 15 years to life. Please help!

By anon350077 — On Oct 01, 2013

My daughter was raped while under the influence of Xanax. The guy admitted to it but said that she said yes, even though she was practically unconscious. She has no memory of this happening to her until he admitted it to a friend. When she confronted him, he said, " So what? We had sex. Who's going to believe you? I have friends who are cops." Well, guess what? They believed the guy and the charges were put on the back burner.

My daughter almost killed herself over this because now the world knows what happened and most of her friends are siding with the guy. Where's the justice?

By anon341915 — On Jul 16, 2013

If someone was raped five months ago, would rape kits even find anything all these months later?

By anon326217 — On Mar 20, 2013

I am going through this as well. Bottom line: I have been accused of having a sexual relationship with an underage girl. I told the police that they would not find any biological evidence against me, because it would not be there. They performed a rape kit on the girl and swabbed her vagina inside and outside and did not find anything. However, I submitted to a DNA swab of my mouth based on a positive fluorescent in the crotch of her underwear. My DNA was conveniently found there after the swab. I know someone planted it there.

My question is, Is it possible for my DNA to show up on the underwear but not on the vagina? I wouldn't think so. It is something I think will be valuable at my trial. I also have indisputable video proof that the detective lied about me and slandered me and committed libel against me and has been biased since day one. The problem is the DNA test still came back positive. Whether it was planted or not, it still looks bad.

By veeenj — On Dec 25, 2012

Somebody is accused for rape and he asked for DNA test. But the DNA report says that No DNA could be extracted from the rape kit. Is this is in favor of the accused?

By anon309393 — On Dec 16, 2012

My son has been accused of raping his 9 year old step daughter. She is Latino and my son is black, and she hates him and causes him racist names constantly. Her mother has three sons by my son and the 9 year old daughter calls them the same names, too.

Because she dislikes my son, she has told the police he has been raping her since she was two years old. However, when a rape test was given, it was found she is still a virgin. It is a shame a child can lie and get a person put in jail, just because they don't like them.

He is still going through court at the present time. His life has been ruined, all because she wanted her mother to leave him.

By anon307200 — On Dec 04, 2012

Do rape kits still work if a condom was used? How fast can I expect to get my results back if I do not plan on pressing charges?

By anon303912 — On Nov 17, 2012

Can it be possible to find out the presence of sperm inside the vagina or in the female genital tract for two months, after intercourse just one time, can it be detected by any forensic extermination.

By anon259566 — On Apr 06, 2012

Can DNA be found when the accused did not get erect and tried to penetrate using a condom?

By anon258856 — On Apr 03, 2012

My step daughter stated to cps five years ago that I allowed a man to rape her. It was investigated and dismissed. Now she reported I molested her. What can I do, and should not she have had a rape kit done and no report was filed. Help.

By anon245366 — On Feb 05, 2012

Please be cautious about believing the comments on this post. People are well intentioned, but they do not have the information correct.

Shows like "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" do not portray sexual assault exams the way they are conducted in specialized sexual assault centers.

I have been a sexual assault nurse for 15 years, and I am speaking from my own experience. I have worked only in one geographic area.

Children do get sexual assault examinations. Sometimes physical evidence is collected (with swabs of possible body fluids) and sometimes it is not collected. Sometimes scars can be seen years later.

Evidence kits are routinely collected up to 96 hours after the assault. currently (2012). The Los Angeles Police Department has a policy regarding that.

Evidence can be collected after bathing, even multiple times. Sexual assault exams do not determine if a "rape" occurred.

Evidence can be collected from vaginal, oral and anal areas. Saliva and ejaculate can be collected off any body part.

By anon227361 — On Nov 04, 2011

A girl is accusing my brother of rape. She says she does not drink alcohol at all. She was a virgin, was visiting from out of state and did not know the area but volunteered to take him (a stranger to her) home 30 miles away because he was drunk. She said she needed to use the restroom so they pulled over on the side of the road and he got off and raped her.

He said it was consensual sex. A rape kit was done but I'm wondering what will happen because he did admit to having sex with her. Any advice or words of encouragement?

By anon220741 — On Oct 08, 2011

to Post 16: To my understanding, it does not matter if you took a shower or not. dna can be found in the vagina, mouth or anus up to two weeks after the assault. I only know this because someone I know was accused of rape and the girl did not tell anyone until a week later. They did the rape kit anyway due to this fact that it had not been two weeks yet.

By anon213136 — On Sep 10, 2011

I would like to think that if the victim goes to the hospital right away, even a child, and the evidence is collected there, on the same night that it happened, now this is to say that the victim did not take a shower, I would like to think that there would be some way of preserving it for years later. The main thing is getting the evidence immediately.

Yes, campus rapes do happen on college campuses, but you will also be surprised to find out that it happens also in elementary, middle or secondary schools and more so in boarding schools, especially, when staff are not on their guard or paying attention.

With children attending boarding schools, such as special education boarding schools, or prep schools, staff need to be on guard all the time, especially with children under the age of 18 or in Massachusetts, 16 as far as statutory rape laws are concerned.

In child rape cases that do come up years later, exception needs to be made to the hearsay rule, because, usually in the case of children, either the family or the child himself, who is younger than the perpetrator, usually knows the perpetrator by name, especially in a more confined setting, such as a boarding school dorm or cottage.

By ortegac — On Jun 03, 2011

My three sons and nephew, as i said, were accused of rape. They said that one of my sons and my nephew held her down and my other son raped her.

The investigating officer has his own thing against my sons so he right away went after my kids during this investigation. Their pictures were put on the news and in the papers. They were being accused and they were called rapists. A rape kit was done and the dna came back. My family is still being held. The rape kits are good, not only for the victims, but also for those being accused.

This shows the public and everyone else they are innocent people say where is justice for the victim? Well, where is justice for the wrongfully accused. They were accused by a girl out to get them because she couldn't get any drugs. It's just sad that a girl would lie like this and can get away with it.

By ortegac — On Jun 03, 2011

My sons and nephew are accused of rape and the dna came back and it was not theirs but they are still sitting in jail. I thought also when dna comes back that should prove their innocence. Why haven't they been released?

By anon181485 — On May 29, 2011

is it possible that the rapist was convicted if it happened 10 years ago because the victims were ashamed to tell us?

By melissac35 — On May 17, 2011

i was raped ten years ago, and i remember the nurse saying there was one pubic hair from the rapist. How do i go about getting my rape kit? my address has changed many times. I want to know if he has ever been caught in another crime. I want to come forward and give him more time for my rape, if so. how do i go about finding out if he's in jail?

By anon176857 — On May 16, 2011

my 13 year old son was convicted of rape on a younger person, even though when the rape test came they found no dna in her mouth, vagina or anus. how is that possible?

By anon173807 — On May 08, 2011

@1: No, children do not have to have a rape kit done, but if you are a parent and suspect such an issue it is better to have one done. As for if you were raped 10 years ago, a rape kit would not find anything. rape kits and evidence have to be collected within 72 hours.

If you are raped you need to go immediately to the hospital and report it. Do not take a shower as this can wash away evidence and can contaminate or weaken other evidence. This is from a rape survivor and a criminal justice major.

By anon172797 — On May 05, 2011

Do children have to have rape kits done? And if you were raped ten years ago do you need one?

By illyM — On Apr 24, 2011

i had an rape kit testing done like a month ago & no one has called me yet to tell me the results. I know there should not be any results found because I took a bath the same night of the incident and the next mourning and another shower before i went to get tested, but I'm still worried what they might find.(I doubt the results are accurate). What do you guys think? I don't want them to find anything!

By anon165160 — On Apr 04, 2011

in the year 2005 there were over 500 hundred dna mistakes in rape case. so why not retest them? but no, they just send them right on to prison. before they go back and retest them. that is wrong in the law.

By anon159908 — On Mar 14, 2011

What if a rape kit is done after the person died (child 17 years old) but the perpetrator says it was consensual sex and that that child used several instruments on him or herself? Will a kit be able to determine this? also the child was resuscitated -- well a heart beat was brought back after several hours of unconsciousness, but the person later passed. So they don't consider the person dead when they were penetrated. Or can they tell?

By anon143752 — On Jan 17, 2011

The main thing with these rape kits is the obvious penetration tests: oral, vaginal and anal.

If any of those come back positive for a match from the victim to the suspect, then it's a done deal and the other stuff, such as underneath the nails, means a lot less. Penetration without consent is rape. Many times it's proving that no consent was given, but in the case of vulnerable adults or children, consent is not recognized by the law and so it's statutory rape.

If DNA from the tests done on the vagina, anus or mouth come back with no match to the suspect's DNA then they are in the clear for rape. Even if DNA such as skin is found on the victim's clothing from that suspect, it still clears them of rape. They could have sexually assaulted the victim by touching them or whatever, but that needs more forensics doing to prove it.

Attempted rape is also a failed attempt at rape and for that, one would again need DNA evidence and not a story to convict someone. Failed attempt would be something like partial penetration into the anus, vagina or mouth.

I think it's sometimes a joke when people say a guy grabbed them and had his pants down, so they assume he tried to rape them and should be convicted for attempted rape.

Sure he has done *wrong,* but a guy who, for example, pulls off a woman's bra without her consent and has his pants down exposing his genitalia while making a lunge for the woman, but she escapes will not get done for attempted rape. There is no DNA from his penis has entered the mouth, anus or vagina partially. However, he may get convicted for a sexual assault or battery at the very least.

I assume his intention would be to rape but evidence would suggest otherwise took place. Rape is very difficult to prove in a court, very difficult and the UK has the lowest conviction rate in Europe with most success being kids who were raped and that's because consent means nothing to the law. It's not recognized and by kids I mean anyone under 18, so a 19 year old lad who has 'sex' with a 16 year old girl is committing statutory rape as her consent is waived in the eyes of the law.

By anon141046 — On Jan 09, 2011

@11 -- No, the evidence would have been washed away by then.

By anon134953 — On Dec 16, 2010

If you were raped ten years ago, would the rape kit be necessary? Would it even find anything all these years later?

By anon95268 — On Jul 12, 2010

it seems there's a lot of confusion about rape kits going on.

Yes, consensual partners also show up in rape kits because they are testing for DNA. Any sperm deposited, skin from under the fingernails, hair follicles left on the body or clothes will be found. The DNA cannot be contaminated because they are two different samples. The only way "damage" DNA is to either wash or burn it away or increase natural decomposure (i.e. soaking in water). A rape kit can be performed for any anal and oral sex since they are looking for DNA.

Commenter #8: if the sex was consensual then there would be no perl (unless it is considered statutory rape). In rape kits they look for injuries inflicted on the body (bruises, scratch marks, vaginal and anal trauma, etc). Rough consensual sex can leave the same physical evidence as rape.

Comment #4: usually pictures of the genitalia are not taken because a lot of the damage caused is internal. Pictures of bruises, cuts and bite marks will be taken as well as pictures of the genitals if there is visible and significant trauma (mutilation).

The results usually should not take more than a few days to a week, depending on the evidence. Finding the perp however could take weeks.

I watch a lot of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

By anon90587 — On Jun 16, 2010

I am a rape victim and i got the rape kit.

It was pretty awkward but I'm glad i did it, it helped a lot.

By anon89133 — On Jun 08, 2010

How long will it take to get results from a rape kit? and i was wondering the same thing if they had consensual sex, would it show up?

By anon57468 — On Dec 23, 2009

Can the rape kit be used during anal intercourse as well as regular? Also, If it was consensual sex, what happens if the rape kit found something against the perpetrator?

By anon45788 — On Sep 20, 2009

What do you mean by genital damage anon43586?

By anon43586 — On Aug 30, 2009

when you say pictures of their body, would that include the gential area? Let's say there was genital damage. Would those pictures be shown in court? That would be horrible.

By CuriousCase — On Mar 05, 2009

I was wonderin about a rape kit. if it was consensual sex, can a rape kit identify it? & if the person had two sexual partners in one night can it be contaminated?

By breadcrumbs51 — On May 10, 2008

It is obviously very very important when using a rape kit for the medical team or the response team to treat the victim as an individual and not just one more kit they have to use - rape is extremely traumatic and often the way that it is dealt with is almost as bad as the actual crime.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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