Sexual Assault Testimony

Full-Text Friday: The “It Could Never Happen” Edition

We’ve been talking this week about testimony and about research, so let’s end the week with the interface of the two. Our selection for this week’s Full-Text Friday is an oldy, and perhaps not really that much of a goody. The reason I include it then? Because it exists in the peer-reviewed literature, and as such, means that it cannot be ignored, even if it’s not particularly great science, and even if the results don’t appear to have been reproduced anywhere else. Click through for all of the details.

Citation: J Clin Forensic Med. 2005 Feb;12(1):1-4. Accidental anal intercourse: does it really happen? Norfolk GA.

Why this article? Because while I find the whole premise of the article a bit comical (the sample was from the UK’s Association of Forensic Physicians, who are experiencing more accidental anal penetration than I ever would have imagined), and the science not particularly rigorous, the fact remains that this article was published in a respected, peer-reviewed journal. I am routinely consulted on cases where there has been anal penetration, and an expert is saying that either: a.) accidental penetration is impossible because of the nature of the anatomy and the purported difficulty in penetrating someone anally; or b.) anal penetration requires either tremendous force or tremendous cooperation on the part of the recipient to successfully complete. Neither of these opinions is supported by any research, and this particular article takes “it’s impossible” off the table. So I put this article up as an example of why you need to do your homework before you provide an opinion for either side that is based on what would seem to be reasonably true. Perhaps you’ve heard in some lecture along the way that “always” and “never” should be avoided in your testimony because someone, somewhere can dig up a random study that looks at the exact issue and finds a contrary opinion? That would be this article.

Key quote:

This survey found a lifetime incidence of at least one episode of AAI in 7.2% of males and 10.4% of females. Comparison data between the sexual practices of the study group and the general population, together with theoretical considerations of possible selection bias, suggest that these figures are likely either to be representative or, perhaps, an underestimate of the incidence of AAI amongst adults in the UK. (p. 4)