Archive for February, 2010

No Conclusive Clinical Findings…

February 15, 2010

The defence in the Anwar Ibrahim sodomy trial is appealing to have the charges quashed. They say that 2 different physical examinations of the alleged victim found no evidence of penetration of the anus. Without this, they argue, DNA analysis, witness testimony or other evidence should not even be considered. In their submission, they say:

  1. “no conclusive clinical findings suggestive of penetration to the anus/rectum.”.
  2. “It is the conclusion based on what was found by three doctors that there was no penetration”.

One does not need to have an English degree to know that these sentences do not mean the same thing. To say that there were no conclusive findings of penetration is not the same as saying that the findings were conclusive that penetration did not happen. Yet, this is what the defence wants the court to accept.

So, if a doctor’s examination finds no physical sign of penetration, does that mean that penetration could not have happened? Certainly, this is what the the defence wants people to think. But is this really the case? A quick trawl of Google Books finds the following:

“Even during examination of the female genitalia immediately after rape, there is identifiable damage in less than 50 per cent of the cases. Anal examination of males and females after anal rape shows lesions in less than 30 per cent of cases.
Istanbul Protocol: Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, United Nations

“Violent sexual acts (e.g., forced vaginal intercourse, oral penetration, or anal penetration) may or may not cause physical or anogenital injuries. A negative examination does not imply that sexual assault did not occur.
Forensic emergency medicine, By Jonathan S. Olshaker

In about 50% of cases, there might be no physical signs after acute anal penetration
APLS : the pediatric emergency medicine esource, by Marianne Gausche-Hill, Susan Fuchs, Loren Yamamoto, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians

“Genital trauma is common in victims of sexual assault, occuring in 68% of all patients and is more commonly observed than injury associated with complaints of sodomy (56%).”
Obstetrics and Gynecology Review 1998, By H. H. Sheld

“Very frequently, abused children will not have specific findings that support the diagnosis. Between 30% and 50% of children who are victims of sexual abuse have normal vulvar findings. Between 65% and 85% of children with anal penetration will have a normal perineum when examined.”
Gynecology in Primary Care, by Roger Perry Smith

It is clear what the expert consensus is. In many genuine cases of anal rape, a physical examination of the victim will not yield any evidence of injury or other signs. A decision in favour of the appeal would set a precedent that would have devastating consequences for rape victims in the future.