Experts answer: What Does DNA Evidence Prove?

(Note: I did the research and much of the writing for this post before Blac(k)ademic posted her critique of writing which treats rape “like a damn sports event where we are taking sides and rooting for each side based on DNA samples.” I’ll don’t really disagree with Blac(k)ademic, but I still think that engaging with the particulars is sometimes necessary, and is possible to do without treating rape like a sports event. I intend to post more on this later, but for now I gotta get away from the computer for a while.)

Now that DNA evidence has not shown a connection between Mary Doe, the alleged victim, and any of the Duke Lacrosse players, many people are saying that the case should be closed. Some are even saying that the DNA proves that no rape happened, and Mary Doe made a false accusation.

To tell you the truth, until I began researching this post, I knew nothing about DNA evidence beyond what I’ve seen on TV detective shows. The public comments about DNA in this case have all come from defense lawyers, whose statements may be more about what they want potential jurors to hear than about what the most truthful analysis is. (The same is true for public statements made by the DA, of course).

In a comment at Ginmar’s livejournal, Fiona64 identified herself as a “forensic science geek” who, while not an expert, at least knows more about DNA evidence than the average CSI watcher. I emailed her with a bunch of questions, which she was kind enough to answer.

That gave me the idea of emailing evidence analysts – experts who write technical papers and testify in courtrooms – and asking them background questions. I cut down my list of questions to just four (I thought there was a better chance of getting responses if there were fewer questions asked) and emailed several DNA evidence experts. To my surprise, several were kind enough to email me back.

So here I’m going to summarize the answers. Then, below the fold, you’ll find the full text of all the responses I got, along with a brief description of each expert’s background (the background descriptions are quoted from this website). I’ve tried to be honest in how I’ve quoted folks, but I’ve also been fitting in writing this post around Passover and work, so my advice is to go ahead and read the full answers.

Keep in mind that these answers are only general background comments about what DNA evidence can and cannot prove, not specific comments about the Duke rape case.

On the whole, the most striking thing to me about the responses is the lack of unanimity between the experts. It’s pretty clear that DNA evidence is a field in which experts can, and do, disagree.

Question one: 1. If DNA evidence fails to prove that an accused person raped an alleged rape victim, does that prove that the accused person could not have raped the alleged victim?

Here, all experts agreed that it is possible for DNA to not be left behind by a rapist, but different experts seemed to disagree about how likely that is.

Jennifer Friedman, of the Los Angeles County Innocence Project, gave an answer which implied that it’s extremely unlikely that anyone could rape and not leave DNA behind (unless they used a condom). “In general, if there is a sexual assault with penetration either vaginal or anal and no condom is used one would expect DNA to be present. Even if the perpetrator did not ejaculate, his epithelial cells will often times be left behind. In order to answer this question most accurately, I would need to know specifically what is alleged to have occurred. Occasionally, DNA may be left on the alleged victim and yet the person who swabbed the area may have missed the area with the DNA, but this is rare.”

On the other hand, Elizabeth Johnson flatly answered “no” (perhaps because she was in a rush), and William Thompson wrote that “absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.”

2. Is it possible for a rape to happen and for no useful DNA evidence to be left behind? Put another way, if someone says she was raped, but no DNA evidence supports her claim, does that prove she made a false rape report?

Not one expert was willing to say that absence of DNA evidence is proof of a false rape accusation. But how strongly they said “no” to this question varied significantly.

On the “weak no” side, Dan Krane wrote: “It is worth noting that DNA tests are amazingly sensitive (DNA profiles can be generated from as little material as that left behind in a fingerprint) and Y-STR tests have the potential of determining a male’s DNA profile even when a female’s DNA is present in hundreds or thousands of times greater quantities. Scientists are always wary of asserting that the absence of evidence is not proof of absence but it certainly is reasonable to expect to find a rapist’s DNA associated with a victim when the victim presents herself to investigators within hours of an attack and when she has not bathed, the rapist did not use a condom and ejaculation occurred.”

On the other hand, Simon Ford believes that CSI has given the public an inflated idea of how certain and quick DNA tests are, and writes “If the claim is such that one would expect to see biological material and none is found, then sure it may be an indication of a false claim, but there are really so many other potential explanations, particularly when just dealing with the first round of DNA testing, such as issues like condom use, vasectomy, choice of test (autosomal STR v. Y-STR), choice of samples to test, many other things like this can all play a part.”

And William Shields wrote “unless the victim stated that she was sure there no condoms used the absence of DNA could not prove she was mistaken much less that she made a false report.”

Finally, Fiona64 writes “It may, however, mean that the proverbial net needs to be thrown wider in order to obtain a different pool of suspects.”

3. I’ve seen it claimed that mixed DNA from multiple rapists will not necessarily match the individual DNA of any of the rapists, so multiple rapists not using condoms may be unidentifiable. This seems dubious to me. Do you know if this is true?

The answers given by experts to this question were truly all over the place. Several experts do not think there is any danger of a false exclusion in such a scenario. For instance, William Thompson of the University of California wrote “It depends on the way the analyst chooses to interpret the mixed profile. In the cases I look at, the analyst are usually quite lenient about what they will call a ‘match.’ A mixture of DNA from three or more men can often be interpreted in a manner that allows a very substantial fraction of the male population to be ‘included’ as a potential contributor.”

Another expert, Jennifer Friedman, writes “If someone is excluded, he is definitively excluded.”

But William Shields of the State University of New York wrote, “If three, four, or more people donate DNA then there will be so many alleles in a mixture that very few if any people can be excluded as potential contributors. In such an event the evidence does become useless.”

4. Is it possible for a condom to be used, without physical evidence of condom use (traces of latex, etc) being left behind?

A few experts I contacted didn’t feel they knew enough to answer this question.

Of the experts who answered this question, however, all agreed that condoms could be used and not necessarily detected. Elizabeth Johnson wrote, “Testing for these substances is not typically done, despite what you see on CSI. There has been some research done re spermicides on condoms, but none of this is done as part of a typical test and validated methods for casework aren’t there yet.” William Shields wrote “This question is better asked of a forensic chemist but I do know that such traces are often but not always left behind.” And William Thompson flatly answered “yes.”

So what do I conclude from all this?

Despite the DNA evidence, from what the experts say it’s possible that condoms were used, preventing DNA evidence from being left behind. It’s also possible that the rapists were party guests but not members of the lacrosse team. The idea that this case has now been settled, or that Mary Doe has been proved a liar, rests on weak and inconclusive evidence. It is clear that those who have say the DNA evidence proves no rape took place are vastly exaggerating what DNA evidence (or the lack of DNA evidence) can conclusively show.

(The other evidence I’ve seen put forward to support the “it was a false rape accusation” arguments – 911 calls, photos, Mary Doe’s past arrest, etc. – I don’t see as even a tiny bit persuasive, for reasons I’ll describe in an upcoming post.)

I don’t deny that it’s possible no rape took place, and clearly this possibility is supported (but far from proved) by initial DNA results. Still, given all the evidence available so far, I continue to believe Mary Doe’s claim that she was raped at the lacrosse player’s party. And although there may not be enough evidence for “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” that in and of itself doesn’t prove that no rape took place. Rape is, contrary to popular belief, an extremely difficult crime to prove in a courtroom; there are many more rapists than there are tried and convicted rapists.

****Important note for comment-writers****: Comments on this post are for “feminist and feminist-friendly posters” only. If you are a poster who is unknown to me, and you leave a comment that is not clearly coming from a feminist point of view, I will probably NOT let the comment through. However, everyone is welcome to post comments on the exact same post at Creative Destruction. So if you’re not clearly a feminist, and you want your comment to be seen, I strongly advise you to post it over there, rather than on “Alas.”

* * *

Below the fold are the full answers given by each of the experts. I think all the answers are pretty interesting, and recommend reading them all. If you only have time for one, though, I think Simon Ford’s email is especially valuable both for the background information it contains and for the picture it paints of how complex questions of DNA evidence can be.

Fiona64

I will do my best to answer your questions, with the caveat that I am *not* an evidence analyst; I work for the lab and am majoring in forensic anthropology (I will eventually work *in* the lab). I can find source material to answer the things about which I’m uncertain, though, so please feel free to ask away.

If DNA evidence fails to prove that an accused person raped an alleged rape victim, does that prove that the accused person could not have raped the alleged victim?

Nope. Lack of DNA evidence is not automatically exculpatory. Really, the vast majority of crimes do not have DNA evidence.

Is it possible for a rape to happen and for no useful DNA evidence to be left behind?

Most assuredly. I can think of a number of scenarios in which that might be the case; the obvious one is when a rapist uses a condom.

Is it possible for no conclusive DNA evidence to be left behind even if the rapist(s) doesn’t use a condom?

This is a little trickier; rape with an object, or by an assailant who shaves his body hair, or in a “drug-assisted” situation (i.e., GHB, Rohypnol) are just a couple of scenarios in which this might be the case.

Other circumstances in which rape may have occurred without DNA being present in the victim include the assailant having had a vasectomy, failed to ejaculate, or is azoospermic (a shmancy word that means his semen does not contain spermatozoa).

If DNA evidence fails to prove a connection between a group of suspects and an alleged rape victim, does that prove that no rape took place?

Not at all. It may, however, mean that the proverbial net needs to be thrown wider in order to obtain a different pool of suspects.

You’ve said that “Mitochondrial DNA (from hair samples) and epithelial DNA (from shed skin cells on clothing, for example) takes significantly longer to process. We have come along way with DNA analysis; a sperm sample used to take 3 months to analyze, and we can now do it in 48 hours. However, mitochondrial and epithelial samples still take as much as 3 weeks just to replicate an adequate sample to test.”

Can you explain the significance of this? Is it possible for the mitochondrial and epithelial DNA to have different results than the initial DNA analysis?

Nuclear DNA is what most people think of when it comes to evidence — that’s what comes from blood, semen, pulled hair (with root bulb, which is where the nuclear DNA is) and buccal (cheek) cells. Mitochondrial DNA can come from bones, teeth or cut hair … and it has to be replicated by PCR (polymerase chain reaction) most of the time in order to have an adequate sample to look at. The difference comes in with mDNA in that it is matriarchal in nature; that is, your mDNA is virtually identical to your mother’s, grandmother’s, etc. Without a matriarchal sample for comparison, mDNA is not particularly useful. Furthermore, if two potential assailants are siblings, their mDNA will be nearly identical. :-/ BTW, the reason that mDNA could be used to identify the corpse of Laci Peterson (which is how they did it) was that they had bone samples *and* the availability of Laci Peterson’s mom for additional samples.

Epithelial cells can only be tested for DNA if they contain glycogen … and not all epithelials do.

So, as you can see, it’s not always a straightforward thing. Ideally, all cases would be awash with nuclear DNA … from a forensic point of view, anyway. It would make it very easy to get the right person every single time, and it’s just not like that.

I’ve seen it claimed that mixed DNA from multiple rapists will not necessarily match the individual DNA of any of the rapists, so multiple rapists not using condoms may be unidentifiable. Do you know if this is true?

I don’t know whether it’s true, but it stands to reason strictly from a physical science perspective. You have liquid (semen) from more than one source, and it’s going to have pretty much the same density. An analyst could say “there’s more than one source here,” but not be able to tease out which cells go with which source. It’s like pouring a bottle of Aquafina and a bottle of Dasani into the same pitcher; you know it’s two different kinds of water, from two different sources, but you can no longer tell once they’ve intermingled which one is which.

Is it possible for a condom to be used, without physical evidence of condom use (traces of latex, etc) being left behind?

Again, I don’t know the exact answer here. The theory is that anything you touch could potential transfer trace evidence; the best test I’ve ever seen for this is suggesting that one walk in stocking feet from one room to the next, and then see what you took with you. However, I could envision a scenario in which non-latex (lambskin) condoms might have been used … and those typically also do not have spermicide.

Jennifer Friedman
Jennifer Friedman, J.D., Deputy Public Defender and Forensic Science Coordinator with the Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office. She has litigated several high-profile cases where DNA testing played a pivotal role and is also the founder and former head of the Los Angeles County Innocence Project.

1. If DNA evidence fails to prove that an accused person raped an alleged rape victim, does that prove that the accused person could not have raped the alleged victim?

It does not absolutely prove that the accused could not have committed the crime. However, in general, if there is a sexual assault with penetration either vaginal or anal and no condom is used one would expect DNA to be present. Even if the perpetrator did not ejaculate, his epithelial cells will often times be left behind. In order to answer this question most accurately, I would need to know specifically what is alleged to have occurred. Occasionally, DNA may be left on the alleged victim and yet the person who swabbed the area may have missed the area with the DNA, but this is rare.

2. Is it possible for a rape to happen and for no useful DNA evidence to be left behind? Put another way, if someone says she was raped, but no DNA evidence supports her claim, does that prove she made a false rape report?

See above.

3. I’ve seen it claimed that mixed DNA from multiple rapists will not necessarily match the individual DNA of any of the rapists, so multiple rapists not using condoms may be unidentifiable. This seems dubious to me. Do you know if this is true?

I would disagree with this. If DNA is left behind, particularly in an intimate sample (so that the male and female DNA may be separated)even if there is a mixture, individuals will either be included or excluded based on the alleles present. If someone is excluded, he is definitively excluded. If someone is included, this might be significant or insignificant depending upon how many others are also included. What is difficult about mixtures, is determining which genetic profiles are actually present. Thus, if someone is excluded, he is excluded. But if someone is included, he may not necessarily be the person who left the DNA.

4. Is it possible for a condom to be used, without physical evidence of condom use (traces of latex, etc) being left behind?

This is not my area of expertise but I have seen a number of cases where the lab tests for the presence of spermicide and concludes based on its present that a condom was recently used.

Simon Ford
Trained primarily in molecular biology and biochemistry, Dr. Ford is the Founder and President of Lexigen Science and Law Consultants, a firm that specializes in providing advice to lawyers about genetic evidence since 1988. He has personally reviewed the DNA evidence from thousands of criminal investigations and has conducted numerous workshops for agencies on the analysis of STR test results.

Barry:

For your information, I’ve not been following the reports of the Duke rape case allegations, all I know is that the incident allegedly involves multiple potential assailants, and that the initial DNA report failed to establish a link with any of the individuals tested from the Duke team — that’s about all I know.

One important issue underlying the media coverage of a story like the Duke incident is that TV shows like CSI have raised unrealistic expectations in the general public of what forensic science, and specifically DNA testing, can do. People get the idea that you run a test, it takes just a few hours, and you get a definitive answer yes or no. In truth DNA testing takes much longer, can produce ambiguous results and has always got to be considered in the framework of the specific question asked and in the context of other biological tests, such as microscopic observation of cell types (for example sperm in a rape case) or serological tests for body fluids (such as semen). Also there are different types of DNA tests. Many labs start with the standard autosomal STR test on sex assault cases. This test looks at regions of DNA which differ from person-to-person and are scattered across the non-sex chromosomes. In some instances, for example samples which contains large amounts of (female) victim DNA, the assailant’s DNA may get swamped out, and so the lab can use one of the Y-STR tests, which homes in on variable regions only found on the Y-chromosome (which men have and women do not). In cases of this type, the initial (autosomal) STR DNA report may fail to report a match with the suspect but a later Y-STR DNA report may incriminate. There can also be other simpler explanations for a negative initial report being followed by a later incriminating report, such as refining the choice of samples to test. I would not read too much into a negative report until the whole testing scenario has been completed.

With regard to your specific questions. I don’t know much about testing for latex and detection of condom use. The question regarding mixtures is easiest to deal with. A mixed DNA profile will consist of the DNA profiles of the contributing individuals superimposed, one on top of another. It can be quite complex, because not all contributions are going to be in equal amounts, causing unevenness in the profile, and the DNA profiles of the individuals who contribute least to the mixture may well drop below detectable levels. So the first potential problem is that minor contributors may be missed. Beyond that though, it is still possible to answer the question as to whether a specific profile can be excluded as being a potential contributor to the mixed profile.

Once you have determined that a particular profile cannot be excluded the problem is how to express the significance of that observation; and this is were statistics comes in. The statistical calculations for mixture cases can be quite complicated. In single source cases labs often report stats in the trillions and quadrillions but in mixture cases the stats can be dramatically eroded — the more contributors, the less powerful the stats — it is not uncommon to see stats in the tens or hundreds in mixture cases. The presence of multiple contributors can erode the statistical power of the test to the point whereby, if there are enough contributors, the test really doesn’t have any useful meaning any more. All the lab would be able to say is that there were a large number of contributors, but no further conclusions could be drawn.

Your two remaining questions are more difficult to answer, because they deal with DNA evidence without giving the context of the specific question being asked for that case or information about other biological testing. Every case is different and has its own nuances. With regard to DNA it all hinges on whether the specific allegations claimed by the victim are amenable to being proven right or wrong by DNA. If the claim is such that one would expect to see biological material and none is found, then sure it may be an indication of a false claim, but there are really so many other potential explanations, particularly when just dealing with the first round of DNA testing, such as issues like condom use, vasectomy, choice of test (autosomal STR v. Y-STR), choice of samples to test, many other things like this can all play a part.

Sorry I can’t be more definitive, but I hope these comments help illustrate the difficult challenges that labs and attorneys face with regard to the real world usage of DNA evidence in criminal cases.

All the best,

Simon Ford

Elizabeth Johnson
Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D. has been a practicing forensic scientist for the past thirteen years, specializing in forensic biology and DNA issues. Dr. Johnson established and directed the DNA laboratory at the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office in Houston, Texas from 1992-1996. She then worked at Technical Associates, a private criminalistics laboratory in Ventura, California, for six years. After leaving Technical Associates, Dr. Johnson has gone into solo practice, based in Thousand Oaks, California, providing testing, review, consultation, testimony, and education to those in need of assistance with forensic DNA.

Barry,

Sorry for the brevity of the answers…must scram for court.

Elizabeth Johnson

1. If DNA evidence fails to prove that an accused person raped an alleged rape victim, does that prove that the accused person could not have raped the alleged victim?

No

2. Is it possible for a rape to happen and for no useful DNA evidence to be left behind? Put another way, if someone says she was raped, but no DNA evidence supports her claim, does that prove she made a false rape report?

It is possible that penetration occurs w/o ejaculation therefore not leaving sufficient biological material in her to be detected in typical DNA tests.

3. I’ve seen it claimed that mixed DNA from multiple rapists will not necessarily match the individual DNA of any of the rapists, so multiple rapists not using condoms may be unidentifiable. This seems dubious to me. Do you know if this is true?

You cannot identify an individual from a mixture. You can exclude or fail to exclude a person from a mixture. Still very useful information.

4. Is it possible for a condom to be used, without physical evidence of condom use (traces of latex, etc) being left behind?

Testing for these substances is not typically done, despite what you see on CSI. There has been some research done re spermicides on condoms, but none of this is done as part of a typical test and validated methods for casework aren’t there yet.

Dan Krane
Dan Krane, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Wright State University, his research lab generates thousands of DNA profiles each year as well as the lead author of the best selling undergraduate textbook on bioinformatics. A leading authority on forensic DNA evidence, he is founder and CEO of Forensic Bioinformatics, Inc. and has testified as an expert witness in approximately fifty cases.

1. If DNA evidence fails to prove that an accused person raped an alleged rape victim, does that prove that the accused person could not have raped the alleged victim?

There is no “pat answer” to your question. The circumstances of the investigation (particularly the victim’s recounting of the events when it is available) almost always need to be taken into consideration. For instance, consider a situation in which a woman asserts that she was raped by a single individual and that she had not had sexual contact with any other individual for many days. If investigators identify a suspect and then find that his DNA profile is not the same as the source of semen from the victim, then those test results can be construed as proof that the suspect was not the perpetrator.

2. Is it possible for a rape to happen and for no useful DNA evidence to be left behind? Put another way, if someone says she was raped, but no DNA evidence supports her claim, does that prove she made a false rape report?

It is possible for no DNA profile to be generated during a rape investigation even though a rape had occurred. The greater the amount of time between the rape and evidence collection, the greater the likelihood that no DNA will be recovered. Other factors such as: did the victim bathe or not, did the rapist use a condom or not, and did the rapist ejaculate or not also need to be considered. However, it is worth noting that DNA tests are amazingly sensitive (DNA profiles can be generated from as little material as that left behind in a fingerprint) and Y-STR tests have the potential of determining a male’s DNA profile even when a female’s DNA is present in hundreds or thousands of times greater quantities. Scientists are always wary of asserting that the absence of evidence is not proof of absence but it certainly is reasonable to expect to find a rapist’s DNA associated with a victim when the victim presents herself to investigators within hours of an attack and when she has not bathed, the rapist did not use a condom and ejaculation occurred.

3. I’ve seen it claimed that mixed DNA from multiple rapists will not necessarily match the individual DNA of any of the rapists, so multiple rapists not using condoms may be unidentifiable. This seems dubious to me. Do you know if this is true?

Mixed DNA samples are generally much more difficult to interpret than unmixed samples are. The statistics associated with mixtures are typically much less impressive than those associated with unmixed samples as a direct result. It is possible for large amounts of one or two people’s DNA relative to other contributors to a mixture to mask or obscure the presence of DNA from secondary contributors. However, the presence of one person’s DNA will not change the DNA profile of another contributor to a sample.

4. Is it possible for a condom to be used, without physical evidence of condom use (traces of latex, etc) being left behind?

I don’t think that my opinion on this would be any more expert than your own so I’ll let you come to your own conclusion!

William Shields
Dr. Shields is a Professor of Biology at the State University of New York, Syracuse. Dr. Shields has become one of the most easily recognized experts in the field of DNA profiling through his participation as a testifying expert in countless highly publicized trials including the on-going CA v. Peterson. He has published widely in the areas of population genetics and mitochondrial DNA testing.

Dear Barry: It doesn’t take long to answer your questions so here goes:

1. If DNA evidence fails to prove that an accused person raped an alleged rape victim, does that prove that the accused person could not have raped the alleged victim?

It depends. If condoms were used then the rapist might not leave DNA evidence during the commission of the crime. If the victim said no condoms were used then no DNA would be evidence that she might be lying. If DNA was found but did not match the accused this would be evidence that the accused did not leave the DNA. The entirety of the evidence is needed to know what any result means.

2. Is it possible for a rape to happen and for no useful DNA evidence to be left behind? Put another way, if someone says she was raped, but no DNA evidence supports her claim, does that prove she made a false rape report?

I answered this above but unless the victim stated that she was sure there no condoms used the absence of DNA could not prove she was mistaken much less that she made a false report.

3. I’ve seen it claimed that mixed DNA from multiple rapists will not necessarily match the individual DNA of any of the rapists, so multiple rapists not using condoms may be unidentifiable. This seems dubious to me. Do you know if this is true?

Mixed DNA from more than one individual never “matches” a single person. Instead if all of a person’s DNA types are found in the mixture then they cannot be excluded as potential contributors. If two people donate DNA then all of their “alleles” or markers will be there so as many as four per locus (genetic site) of which there at least 15 that can be tested. If three, four, or more people donate DNA then there will be so many alleles in a mixture that very few if any people can be excluded as potential contributors. In such an event the evidence does become useless.

4. Is it possible for a condom to be used, without physical evidence of condom use (traces of latex, etc) being left behind?

This question is better asked of a forensic chemist but I do know that such traces are often but not always left behind

Hope this helps,

Bill Shields

William C. Thompson
Dr. Thompson is a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine, and a member of the California Bar. He has been a member of the NACDL DNA Strikeforce and has represented a number of defendants in cases that utilized DNA evidence. His work into flaws with the Houston, TX Police Department Crime Laboratory has recently been featured prominently in stories by the television news show 60 Minutes.

1. If DNA evidence fails to prove that an accused person raped an alleged rape victim, does that prove that the accused person could not have raped the alleged victim?

NO. ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE IS NOT NECESSARILY EVIDENCE OF ABSENCE. ON THE OTHER HAND, IF THE ALLEGED VICTIM SAYS “THIS SEMEN STAIN WAS DEPOSITED BY THE DEFENDANT” AND THE TEST REVEALS THAT THE SEMEN STAIN WAS IN FACT FROM SOMEONE OTHER THAN THE DEFENDANT, OR THAT IT IS NOT A SEMEN STAIN, THAT WOULD RAISE DOUBTS ABOUT THE VERACITY OF THE ALLEGED VICTIM.

2. Is it possible for a rape to happen and for no useful DNA evidence to be left behind? Put another way, if someone says she was raped, but no DNA evidence supports her claim, does that prove she made a false rape report?

NO. A RAPIST WHO FAILED TO EJACULATE OR USED A CONDOM MIGHT LEAVE TOO
LITTLE BIOLOGICAL MATERIAL BEHIND FOR IT TO BE DETECTED.

3. I’ve seen it claimed that mixed DNA from multiple rapists will not necessarily match the individual DNA of any of the rapists, so multiple rapists not using condoms may be unidentifiable. This seems dubious to me. Do you know if this is true?

IT DEPENDS ON THE WAY THE ANALYST CHOOSES TO INTERPRET THE MIXED PROFILE. IN THE CASES I LOOK AT, THE ANALYST ARE USUALLY QUITE LENIENT ABOUT WHAT THEY WILL CALL A “MATCH.” A MIXTURE OF DNA FROM THREE OR MORE MEN CAN OFTEN BE INTERPRETED IN A MANNER THAT ALLOWS A VERY SUBSTANTIAL FRACTION OF THE MALE POPULATION TO BE “INCLUDED” AS A POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTOR.

4. Is it possible for a condom to be used, without physical evidence of condom use (traces of latex, etc) being left behind?

YES

****Important note for comment-writers****: Comments on this post are for “feminist and feminist-friendly posters” only. If you are a poster who is unknown to me, and you leave a comment that is not clearly coming from a feminist point of view, I will probably NOT let the comment through. However, everyone is welcome to post comments on the exact same post at Creative Destruction. So if you’re not clearly a feminist, and you want your comment to be seen, I strongly advise you to post it over there, rather than on “Alas.”

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49 Responses to Experts answer: What Does DNA Evidence Prove?

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  11. 11
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    One added piece of blur in the situation: was the lab competent and homest?

  12. 12
    Elena says:

    There’s a great book called “(something) from the Grave”. Sorry I can’t remember the title, it was read on The Radio Reader on NPR last year. It was the history of DNA evidence. There were apparently a lot of missteps in the beginning- sloppy sample taking, labeling, etc. But the book made it clear that it has improved by leaps and bounds.

    To throw another wrench into the topic- I have heard of something called genetic chimeras. These are people who were conceived as fraternal twins who very soon after conception melded into one embryo. These people have two sets of DNA, which may show up in different parts of their bodies. There was an interesting show about it on a TV news show where a young, poor mother was accused of kidnapping her own children, whose DNA seemed to come from a close relative, not her (discovered through paternity testing). She had to have authorities witness the birth of her baby, and perform a DNA test to prove she was an anamoly, not a kidnapper. Noone knows how common this is, but it could possibly lead to unwarranted exonerations or loss of custody.

  13. 13
    Mendy says:

    Elena,

    ISTR that genetic chimeras are fairly rare, and I remember watching the same show you saw. I believe it was called “My own Twin” or “I am my own twin” or something similar. I veiwed it on Discovery Chanel sometime last year. I’ve tried to find exact numbers per birth for the natural occurence of human genetic chimeras, but I’ve not had any luck.

    I am studying microbiology, but I have a strong interest in forensic sciences. It has been my experience that views about the strength of DNA evidence varies widely among experts (as witnessed in the answers Amp received to his questions).

    I see that there is enough evidence to conclude that a rape (sexual assault) occured at that party, but without more information I’m inclined to believe that the attackers were attendees at the party, but most likely not on the LAX team. I am waiting until more evidence is made available (and can be viewed independent of any spin by either the prosecution or the defense).

  14. 14
    Kristjan Wager says:

    One thing I feel should be mentioned, is that most places* don’t allow for DNA evidence as the only evidence for someone’s guilt, precisely because of the problems with it. It is some times used as a way to clear someone of guilt, when the DNA clearly proves that it the DNA sample belongs to someone else, however just because it cannot positively be connected to someone, doesn’t clear that person (though it can be used as part of the evidence of that person’s innocence).

    So, in other words, there are three senarios:
    1) The DNA supports the evidence that X raped Y.
    2) The DNA doesn’t support the evidence that X raped Y.
    3) The DNA supports the evidence that X didn’t rape Y.

    In this case, it seems clear to me that it’s a case of number 2.

    *) I am unclear if the US, or parts of the US, allows for DNA as the only evidence used in a case.

  15. 15
    Marcella Chester says:

    Thanks for the informative post. Another factor in DNA testing is that criminals who are aware of DNA testing can attempt to destroy the DNA samples.

    In a local rape/murder case where the initial DNA tests came up blank (because the perp attempted to destroy DNA evidence), the case was considered unsolvable. Fortunately, a newer more sensitive test was able to identify the DNA of the rapist. Between that evidence and a tip, the case was solved.

  16. 16
    paul says:

    The part about lousy stats with mixed samples can’t be underestimated, especially if your suspects are already limited to a fairly homogeneous ethnic group. But what strikes me as a bit sad is the obviousness of most of the experts’ answers, and the apparent rush to judgement among those who want to declare the case closed.

    (I’m also wondering how it was ostensibly determined that only the lacrosse team was attending the party — don’t these guys have any friends?)

  17. 17
    azzy23 says:

    Just wanted to comment first that this is an incredibly good read, and a very well written entry. Seriously, very very good.

    I’d like to make a comment regarding condom usage. I believe it’s highly likely the rapists (some of which probably were not on the Lacrosse team, I think) used condoms. A lot of men in a certain age group and class would find the idea of mixing sperm, or touching another man’s sperm, to be vaguely homosexual. Also, they would probably not want to get any diseases from someone they thought was beneath them. I wish more labs did check for the byproducts of condom usage, I think that would be quite interesting in this particular case, but that’s only my opinion.

  18. 18
    Ledasmom says:

    I suspect nobody knows how many people are genetically chimeric – after all, very few people ever get a DNA profile done, much less the sort of work that would reveal chimerism. If I recall correctly from that program (which was pretty darn interesting), even after it was determined that the woman in question was chimeric it was exceedingly difficult to pin down exactly how – that is, what parts of the body were derived from the less-prevalent gene set. Didn’t the program also talk about another woman who apparently had children from both her cell lines?

  19. 19
    JamesQ says:

    Well the answers from the experts were interesting, and I suppose we still need to wait and see how the DNA evidence unfolds. Still after reading about the expert of opinions of the DNA evidence, I would like to know the following things from DNA evidence in the Duke case.

    1. Is there actually DNA evidence i.e. is there DNA from an other person other than the victim
    2. Does the DNA evidence rule out all suspects from the case
    3. Does the DNA matches one or more suspects in the case
    4. Is the DNA inclusive, (perhaps) because of a mixture of DNA samples is it not possible to conclusively match a suspect e.g. we definitely cannot rule out a suspect, but there is not a definite match.

    The thing that gets me is from reading all of the experts of opinions; the only time it seems that DNA evidence itself can possibly be used as evidence in and of itself to point to a false accusation would be during the following type of scenario…

    1. A person accuses a specific person or people of raping them and is basically adamant of the fact
    2. During the rape the person alleges that the one or more of the suspects ejaculated into her without a condom
    3. Tests were done on the person alleging rape within hours after the alleged event occurred and they did not take a bath or a shower.
    4. And there was no DNA evidence was found i.e. there was no DNA besides the accuser.

    In the case of the Duke victims, as far as I can tell she only accused three white men in the house of carry out the attack on her, not specific people. I have read no details about how exactly the raped was carried out, only that three white men carried out the attack. Tests were performed on her hours after the rape, and while it is difficult to say too much about the DNA evidence because it has been mainly lawyers’ spin, the way it is being framed as of now seems to indicate that there was DNA evidence found. As far as I can tell, those who allege that the DNA evidence points to the fact that she is “making things up” are not interested in justice. It would seem only to be fair for now to assume she was definitely assaulted, very likely raped, and the only missing piece of evidence is evidence that would point to a definite perpetrator.

  20. 20
    Mamid says:

    DNA proves nothing. medical gloves. non-latex condoms. washing her right afterwards…

    there’s hundreds of ways to destroy evidence just as there is hundreds of ways to make it.

  21. 21
    Mendy says:

    Ledasmom,
    Yes, that show did tell the story of a woman that had children from both her gene sets, and the problems that it caused her.

    I’ve also recently read that in some cases lukemia patients can become chimeric after major bone marrow transplants. Their blood carries the gene set of the donor and the rest of their bodies carry their own DNA. I’m not sure how common this is, but I found several articles on it in EBSCO Host premier.

    I also wish that testing for condom byproducts were more common in forensic labs. I would think that given contact that some lubricant and latex would be left behind. It may just be that there are such small quantities that a “routine” test would miss them.

  22. 22
    Ledasmom says:

    I believe that’s pretty standard after bone-marrow transplants – one of the ways they know the graft has taken is, if the blood types of the donor and recipient are discordant, that of the recipient will change when the new bone marrow starts making blood cells.

  23. 23
    Lu says:

    Very good, very informative post, Amp. I think it’s unfortunate that CSI and other such shows give such a misleading picture of forensics, especially regarding the amount of time required for tests and the types of tests that are typically done. I believe most of the tests they show are in fact doable, but most places don’t have the resources (either money or time) to do all of them in every case, even every high-profile felony case. And, IRL, evidence gets lost, tests get botched, and outright fraud also happens.

    In Barry Scheck’s book Actual Innocence — which I found very good despite my reservations about Scheck — he cites the statistic that in roughly 25 percent of the cases where DNA is probative, DNA tests eliminate the prime suspect right off the bat. Because DNA can’t give any information about the vast majority of cases, this suggests that an appallingly high number of prisoners are serving time for crimes they didn’t commit.

    I think the Duke case is attracting such attention in part because 1) it has all the inflammatory elements of race, sex, and class 2) there really aren’t that many solid facts available, at least publicly, so it’s a perfect receptacle for people to pour their preconceptions into. Based on what I’ve read and heard about student-athletes and athletes in general, I’m inclined to think that Mary Doe was the victim of rape or some other form of assault and battery. I have to keep reminding myself that I really know nothing about it.

  24. 24
    Rob says:

    Lu, stereotypes, while useful for understanding the world, can only give statistical conclusions, and don’t have much bearing on a particular case.

    Is there any evidence or confluence of evidence that could convince anyone here that she was not raped, or is it a position of faith?

    I hesitate to suggest, but in the interest of convicting rapists, maybe it should be a minor crime, on a par with destroying evidence or interfering with an investigation to wash after a rape. It would put a legal burden on victims, which definately sucks, but maybe when women knew about the law, rape victims would be more likely to do things that lead to convictions.

  25. 25
    Lu says:

    Lu, stereotypes, while useful for understanding the world, can only give statistical conclusions, and don’t have much bearing on a particular case.

    I believe I said that, Captain.

  26. 26
    Dave says:

    Did they do any of the old fashioned tests such as looking for sperm with a microscope? That is step one and would help answer some questions ,especially if positive. I hope this qualifies as a feminist question.

  27. 27
    Rob says:

    I just wanted to make sure that you wouldn’t get banned for forming a statistical view of reality like TangoMan.

    Anyone else noticed that the Duke Rape Case rips a hole in standard social science theories of crime? Poverty didn’t cause this crime, maybe poverty doesn’t cause most crimes.

  28. 28
    Jenny says:

    Thank you so much, Amp, for this excellent piece of journalism.

    Rob, I don’t think that this case rips holes in all social science theories. This case supports the idea that messed-up power structures between human beings (on levels of class and race, in this case) cause crime.

  29. 29
    Lanoire says:

    Good post, Amp. Lots of food for thought. I’m also inclined to still believe she was raped, however difficult it might be to identify the rapist(s).

  30. 30
    Mickle says:

    Poverty didn’t cause this crime, maybe poverty doesn’t cause most crimes.

    poverty causes crimes when the rich are protected from prosecution – because then only the poor can possibly be criminals

    Is there any evidence or confluence of evidence that could convince anyone here that she was not raped?

    No, of course not, we are all lemmings following the beat of the almighty strawfeminist.

    Or – she is innocent until proven guilty as well. I am, after all not “convinced” that the alleged rapists are rapists. I do strongly suspect that all of them, especially the guy that wrote that perverted e-mail, are quite capable of rape. But that doesn’t mean I’m convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that they commited this specific crime. Neither is that contradictory to my belief that the prosecutors and police wouldn’t be doing their job if they simply let the matter drop at this point in time.

    I hesitate to suggest, but in the interest of convicting rapists, maybe it should be a minor crime, on a par with destroying evidence or interfering with an investigation to wash after a rape. It would put a legal burden on victims, which definately sucks, but maybe when women knew about the law, rape victims would be more likely to do things that lead to convictions.

    Yes, because we need something else that we are “supposed” to do when people hurt us or want to hurt us. The list isn’t long enough, after all.

    And the perfect solution is to make it a legal requirement to make rape victims sit in shit their assailants have covered them with – until the doctors and police are done picking them over anyway. It’s not as if such laws would never be used against victims or that simple education and less victim-blaming wouldn’t create better results.

    You may mean well, Rob, but seriously, did you stop and think before you wrote that?

  31. 31
    Rob says:

    Better education? Who doesn’t know? Plus, it really is destroying evidence. An expectation that crime victims shouldn’t destroy evidence doesn’t seem so dumb to me.

  32. 32
    John Palmer says:

    Rob writes:

    Better education? Who doesn’t know? Plus, it really is destroying evidence. An expectation that crime victims shouldn’t destroy evidence doesn’t seem so dumb to me.

    Rob, please try to think of a rape victim as someone who has been assaulted, hurt, and is frightened. Someone who might feel violated and dirty.

    Then, develop a sense of empathy.

    Yeah, it would a lousy situation if a woman destroys evidence that could have helped put a rapist in jail. You know what’s even worse? Being raped in the first place.

    I reckon it’d be even worse to find out that you might face criminal charges for wanting to wash a rapist’s spunk off of yourself.

    You know what I bet your problem is? I bet you’re one of the guys – and there are too damn many of them – who can’t help but think of rape as “a crime committed by a rapist”, and completely ignore that it’s a crime suffered by a rape victim.

  33. 33
    binky says:

    Something that hasn’t really been discussed in regard to the DNA evidence is that most of the comments (and discussion elsewhere) presume that if a rape occurred, then a penis was used, and ejaculation occurred. If that assumption is incorrect, then DNA evidence or looking for sperm/condom residue will be futile.

    There are likely other, unknown scenarios of which we are not thinking, in which the absence of DNA evidence does not disprove rape.

  34. 34
    Mickle says:

    OMFG

    Ok, apparently you didn’t mean well, because you can’t even be bothered to think through the scenario or put yourself in the victims place.

    Who doesn’t know?

    (Isn’t that kinda like asking “who doesn’t know that you get pregnant/get STD’s -insert scenario here-?” I mean the answer should be nobody, but everyone knows that in reality it’s a whole lot of somebodies.)

    We could, of course, start with the twelve year-old victim who isn’t certain what rape is, even after having experienced it – but I must admit that isn’t really what I had in mind.

    People know that when you get drunk, you get drunk. But that doesn’t stop college campuses from explaining to their adult students exactly what happens when you get drunk – and for very good reasons.

    Society seems to be extremely willing to tell me what I shouldn’t do to get raped all the time, but no one ever told me what to do when/if do get raped. Since one is often in shock – no, what to do is not self-explanatory at the time. (And I would think that the whole “being in shock” thing ought to be even more obvious than the “don’t destroy evidence” thing.) A little bit of education of the “stop, drop, and roll” variety will go a lot further than ill-conceived legal penalties. Add in the fact that most rapes are often a violation of trust, and all the ways in which rape victims are told they are responsible for their own rape, and it’s easy to see why so many victims need some time to gather up the courage before they admit their “shame” to strangers – and why creating specific criterea for such reports, and penalties for reportees that don’t meet them, has to be one of the dumbest ideas since Prohibition.

    Even aside from the issue of shock of trust, CSI may be a popular show, but I don’t think we should be relying on commerical television to get the word out. When you still have kids who think you can’t get pregnant on your first time, you are going to have plenty of potential victims who aren’t quite sure what the police really need or what they may be able to find. (“But there wouldn’t be any DNA evidence – he used a condom.”)

    But even beyond that – since when is punishing victims for a perfectly reasonable response ever a good idea? Yes, we should encourage victims to not shower before going to the police even though that really, really, sucks because it’s generally most victims first response, and it often makes the ordeal (combined with the collecting of evidence) seem like it’s still going on even after it’s stopped. But to punish them? WTF?

    I can tell you one thing, such penalties will certainly lead to fewer reports of rape. I mean, seriously, among the victims that are in such a state of shock after their rape that their first response isn’t to call the police right away, how many do you think will be able to gather enough courage to go to the police later – even though they risk being prosecuted themselves simply because they were afraid after being violently attacked? (It’s like you’re under the impression that women who shower before going to the police simply wanted to look their best.)

    However, I’d also bet on a higher conviction rate – simply because the weaker cases will likely be a lot of those not being reported. So, it will all look good on paper.

  35. 35
    Marcella Chester says:

    Rob:

    Better education? Who doesn’t know? Plus, it really is destroying evidence. An expectation that crime victims shouldn’t destroy evidence doesn’t seem so dumb to me.

    This so blatantly anti-victim and pro-rapist that it takes my breath away. As a rape survivor and volunteer victim’s advocate, I know this isn’t common knowledge. The majority of the public — men, women, boys and girls — have no clue about how DNA is collected or what effects the chances of finding DNA samples.

    You seem to be accusing victims of willingly destroying evidence. I suppose you want to charge victims with evidence tampering? Yeah, forget the difficult task of prosecuting rapists, lets get those horrid victims if they don’t do everything we expect a good rape victim to do.

    I would say rapists and exploiters are much more likely to be educated on evidence collection and destruction than those who can’t imagine they are at risk of being raped.
    I say this since — despite what defense attorneys’ claims — rape is a choice, not something that overcomes them when a girl or woman walks into the room.

  36. 36
    Marcella Chester says:

    I missed it the first time, but Rob’s earlier comment answered my question. He’s every rapist’s hero. “You get those skanky rape victims, Rob. Feels good to make ‘em suffer don’t it?”

    I hesitate to suggest, but in the interest of convicting rapists, maybe it should be a minor crime, on a par with destroying evidence or interfering with an investigation to wash after a rape. It would put a legal burden on victims, which definately sucks, but maybe when women knew about the law, rape victims would be more likely to do things that lead to convictions.

    Apparently this doesn’t suck in your opinion, otherwise you wouldn’t suggest it. Hey, if you’re for putting the burden on innocent people as a preventative measure, you’d love to change the law so the “she consented” argument could no longer be used. Think how many rapes THAT would stop.

  37. 37
    Lu says:

    Hey, if you’re for putting the burden on innocent people as a preventative measure, you’d love to change the law so the “she consented” argument could no longer be used.

    Great idea.

    I am just blown away that anyone would seriously suggest that rape victims be subject to prosecution for failing to preserve evidence. (Maybe we should tell hit-and-run victims they weren’t really run over if they didn’t get a license number?) This is undoubtedly the most creative way to blame the victim I have ever seen.

    As for “forming a statistical view of reality,” I’m unfamiliar with the incident referred to, but my point was precisely that whatever your preconceptions may be — whether “male college athletes are macho jerks” or “strippers have low morals” — may or may not be statistically true for the majority of the class of people stereotyped, but they are never valid substitutes for the actual facts of a given case. I think it’s extremely important to be aware of your preconceptions and how they affect your view of reality, and also extremely important to recognize when facts are in short supply.

    (From what I’ve seen of Amp, I’d be quite surprised if he were to ban me for expressing these opinions, although it is of course his prerogative to do so.)

  38. 38
    tigtog says:

    Exactly binky.

    Considering that it is alleged that the strippers were threatened with penetration by a broomstick, and that the players defense was adamant right from the start that no DNA evidence of rape would be found (rather than the more common argument in such cases of consensual gangbanging), it could well indicate that a rape occurred with no penises involved at all.

    And moving away from DNA, as for the “time-stamped photos”, I recently discovered when resetting the time on my camera for the change from daylight-savings time, that the last time I did it six months ago I somehow changed the year to 2004 rather than 2005, so that all the photos I took for the last six months have been dated incorrectly. So time-stamps on cameras are not slam-dunk evidence either.

  39. 39
    Cala says:

    It’s illegal to tamper with a crime scene, but as I understand it, it doesn’t become a ‘crime scene’ or ‘evidence’ unless the police are already involved. Taking a shower isn’t advisable, because it does destroy potential evidence, but it isn’t a crime and shouldn’t be.

    Imagine if we applied this standard to other crimes. Someone’s shot? Don’t help them by putting pressure on the wound, because you might disturb the blood spatters. There’s a burglary in your house? Don’t shut the window if it’s raining , else you’ll go to jail. Been hit by a car? Don’t get up and get out of the road. Don’t help anyone get out of the road, either.

    Come on.

  40. 40
    Steve says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for this very interesting article. All the sensational articles about this Duke matter seem to have neglected basic explanation of DNA testing and it’s limitations.

    and I am glad the subject was not “Are they guilty” but instead stuck to DNA testing in the abstract.

    However, I think it’s important to point out, applying the DNA results to all the other known facts is important.

    For this reason, I am doubtful the right people have been arrested, specifically because, the DA said DNA would prove his case, and the victim identified two attackers.

    I can not see an experienced DA saying the DNA would prove his case unless the victim said no condoms were used, and yet, I can’t see her being able to identify them, and yet not know they were using condoms.

    If she was drugged so heavily she doesn’t know what happened, then her ID of them is flawed.

    One more thing I would like you thoughful folks to know. The largest most prominent prosecutor’s ogranizations, the NDAA, National Distrcit Attorneys Association, has a position paper on DNA testing.

    As you can imagine, they are all in favor of using DNA as much as possible to catch more people.

    And, according to their position paper, they are in favor of post-conviction DNA testing, if it will “Prove Actual Innocence”.

    But then they say any such post-conviction testing must take into account “the need for finality in criminal proceedings” — translation, to me — we don’t care if some innocent man is rotting away, we want our old convictions to be upheld.

    And even as far as “proving actual innocence” some DAs have been very insincered, when men who had been charged as sole rapists were exonerated, some DAs claimed, “he might not be the only rapist”

    Also, the NDAA position is that each individual prosecutor should make up his own program, if any, on post conviction DNA.

    I think a lot of men, and a few women, are innocent, and can prove it, but are sitting in prison right now.

  41. 41
    Me too says:

    I am in the same position here as this woman, and need help. Went to an island, was there less then 35 hrs with my husband, some man stuck something in my drink while I was looking for my husband the first evening enjoying oursleves in our hotel, next thing I know I am in his room with another man, sat down for a moment, wanted to cry, knew something was totally wrong and also knew it was too late to do anything about it including speaking up. Wake up, no pants on, man next to me in bed, he sits up,puts his hands on the sides of his head, my panties are wet, there are tissues on the side of the floor of the bed, this other guy is in the room speaking about work to him, lies to me about where I am, I get the heck out of there. My husband is ill when I return to our room and cannot move, I am in shock and need his help but he is ill, I wait for him to feel up to moving we go down stairs later -first people we see is one man in that rm with his woman and this other guys biggest coworker friend watching us, I freak out, scared, far away from home, I keep my mouth shut, too many of them and my husband is ill and small and I am petite, do not have anyone to trust, the customs guy the day prior tried to pick me up when arriving and I do not trust officials nor the hotel people, these men are living there everyday working for a very rich rich company. I save my panties, report rape when I got home and felt safe away from all of those people, the police send them to the island police, I start to go thru all kinds of tests and denial of how I won’t let it affect me. No matter what you do it does affect you tremendously. I work on my case for a long time with the embassy, I took photos of this mens friends whom watched me all week and the other man that was a hotel guest. I get report stating no dna from embassy, then no sperm from police, different tests? They wont show me any test results nor do anything on my behalf. I am almost 50 and it doesnt matter they just want me to be quiet. The hotel guest man that went up to the room, says he was there, the other man was touching me, I was doing drugs and drinking with them, I take drug test I was not doing any drugs with anyone (not voluntarily), so there is a lie with one man. I asked them to retest for dna, why isnt my dna on the panties? I ask, none is found, why wont they test for condom use? The man that I woke up next to shaved his hair off his head very very closely, that new look, but he seemed to be very meticulous about cleanliness, he took off for 3 days switching rms with another worker, an innocent one not knowing whats up, most likely. I have flashbacks after going to counseling, he stuck a knife to my throat, I had no panties on nor pants, I was fully dressed by the way that night so that is not an issue nor should be. The embassy I find out has this FBI dude that goes thru rape or criminal cases and chooses which ones they should help with and then basically everyone elses gets ignored and they hope you go away and will help you to want to go away, did you all know that? I get ingnored, now this man and his girlfriend came forward and said my story was accurate just the drug part is questionable and all. I need help with the dna testing, I even offered to pay to send it to our country the USA and have it done correctly if it has been done, no test results were ever shown to me and they keep putting that off. There are so many things with my story people would not believe the ridiculously rude behavior rape victims must go thru with the authorities never mind the rapists, business, etc involved. Mine happened two months prior to the Natalee Holloway story, same hotel chain on an island and I am alive cuz I kept my mouth shut. One yr later and they are just starting to listen up, was told noone can protect you if you go to these islands if u want to go back to help so better watch out for that and the police dont want you around after you have bugged them for a yr to do something then to find out that it is your own embassy that pushed your case aside, they go for easy to prove and numbers to show they got some rapists thats it, did anyone know that? My witnesses were there all along but it took over a yr to talk to them and I had to wait till I could handle talking to them. Now you tell me do you think I was raped, and if so how many men? I say yes, my counselor says yes and others do, there are 5 witnesses myself included and too many questions, would u pursue this case? Does DNA always tell the story? I know not, however I dont think that test was ever done on my evidence to begin with. Comments? Please do.

  42. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Ampersand’s 10 Best Of 2006

  43. 42
    Ashley says:

    If a 14year old boy got raped and he felt so disgusting and ashamed, that he took lots of showers, went to the bathroom, threw away his clothes that he was wearing at that time, and didnt tell anyone until a couple days later. Can they still prove he was raped if he only has his testamoney? This happend to a friend recent, he felt so terrible that he wasnt thinking and got rid of everything that had dna.

  44. 43
    Ashley says:

    He threw away his boxers but not his shirt or pants. When he told me what happend, i told him not to wash his clothes. But he said it was too late, he threw away his boxers. But he still has his other clothes in a box unwashed. Can they still prove he was raped?

  45. 44
    Ampersand says:

    Ashley, I’m so sorry for what happened to your friend. That’s truly horrific.

    I don’t know if the clothes would do any good; if your friend wants to pursue this in court, then he’d need to talk to a police officer. One thing he could do first is call a local rape crisis line and see if he can get advice there, as well. (Some rape crisis lines, I’ve heard, won’t help men or boys — which is horrible — but some do.) They might be able to tell him something about what to expect from the police.

    Regardless of what your friend decides in regards to police, he may also want to consider going to talk to a therapist about his experiences. Since he’s of school age, a guidance counselor at school might be someone who he could talk to initially, for recommendations for local counselors or therapists who work with 14 year olds.

    I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. Thank you for being so concerned about your friend; I hope your friend finds some help.

  46. 45
    Elusis says:

    Please tell your friend to call 800-656-HOPE. RAINN will take him seriously and can help connect him to local resources that will support him and help him know what his options are.

  47. 46
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Not incidentally, I was juist reading about a nonprofit whose main goals are to (1) test backlogged rape kits; and (2) assist victims to testify.

    It’s relevant to the DNA thread, but if you want to give it more exposure, stick it in your next open thread:
    http://natashasjusticeproject.org/

  48. 47
    RonF says:

    If any semen got on the victim’s pants – which is definitely possible – the person who it belongs to would have a hell of a time explaining how it got there. If the young man files charges you could provide those pants for testing.

  49. 48
    Ashley says:

    He went to the cops and went to the doctors. But for some reason when the cops were asking questions he told them he lied and that is was a dream. He told me because they kept asking the same questions and he couldnt take them anymore. A couple days later i called his step mom and told her that it really happend. His parents think he might be trying to get attention. But they are not sure so they are taking him to a theripist. Im going to try to covince him to talk to the theripist about what happend. i dont think he is faking because everything he told me, happend to a girl in a book i read. There is also blood in his boxers. He has been bleeding for a few days or longer. I hope everything gets better and they find the bastard that did that to him. Ive been trying to research all about sexual offenders in the area that it happend and how to suport and help him. He only remembers the car the guy was driving because when he tryed to look at his face the guy spun him around too fast and put him in a choke hold. But i hope everything works out for him. Thanks for your guys help. Ill talk to him about it.