What we are about to discuss today is sending chills down my spine, just so you know. If you love watching shows like ‘Bones’ or ‘The criminal mind’, then you already know what am feeling. Forensic management looks very interesting on those shows, and it makes you want to be the person at the crime scene investigating and collecting data. However, most importantly it arouses a question in all of us, is forensics real in my country, do we manage forensics like we see on tv and do we eventually get justice?
Forensics is the application of scientific techniques and methods to investigate a crime. When it comes to crimes of violence especially sexual violence, forensics is vital to link or delink an alleged perpetrator to that crime. It is therefore paramount that we all know a bit about forensics, learn how to manage it and eventually see how forensics helps us get justice for the crime.
The first time I heard about forensic management in connection to victims of sexual violence, I thought it was a job meant for the police and am sure a large number of us are guilty of thinking the same. The whole concept of forensic management is not exciting. But, if we are to get justice for crimes of violence, we must have some bit of background in forensics.
In a case of sexual violence, a crime scene is considered to be a physical location where a crime happened, the survivor of that crime and also the alleged perpetrator. Thus, the evidence collected from those three is what is presented in the court to determine conviction.
Just like a physical crime scene is protected, so should the victim, because they carry a lot of evidence that will help them get justice in the long run. One of the guiding and widely used principles that make forensics important towards getting justice for a crime is the Locard’s Exchange principle that states: Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves even unconsciously, will serve as silent witness against him. Not only his fingerprints or his footsteps but his hair, the fiber from his clothes, the glass he breaks, the tool mark he leaves, the paint he scratches, the blood or semen he deposits or collects.
With that said, am sure we are now on the same page about what forensics is and why it is essential. We will discuss types of evidence but not. today. For a start, we can look into some few tips on forensics management. That includes, the do’s and don’ts that cut across everyone that comes in contact with a survivor/victim of sexual violence. And yes, that includes; doctors, nurses, clinician, police, lab technicians and even prosecutors who get these cases.
- Never take a bath when it’s sexual violence. As I said, the body of the victim has a lot of crucial evidence, if they shower that evidence automatically disappears.
- Package clothes in a brown khaki bag.
- Medics who collect wet sample should ensure that it is dry before packaging. That includes the swabs.
- While examining victims, always wear gloves to avoid contaminating the evidence.
- NEVER use the same cotton swab for collecting evidence from different areas of the body.
- Police are advised to take photographs of exhibits where they are found before retrieving them.
- Police should also wear gloves to avoid leaving their DNA on evidence material.
- Always package evidence properly and label accordingly.
Of course, all these might seem so farfetched and more so because the collection of evidence does not guarantee a conviction. However, without evidence, the chances of conviction are even less.
Once evidence is collected, it is taken to the government chemist for further analysis. It is therefore essential that the government chemist is well equipped and if possible, established in every county. Our hospitals should be well equipped with forensic equipment, and our police stations should have resources that will help them in forensic collection and management.
Forensics is very crucial in at least helping victims get justice for heinous crimes such as sexual violence. Thus, it is vital that those who collect forensic evidence are well trained and are equipped for the task.