« PreviousContinue »
Rape upon Children-Rape upon Adults-Rape upon the Dead-Unnatural Crimes.
RAPE, medico-legally, is the carnal knowledge of a woman forcibly and against her will. At one time the punishment for rape was death, castration, fine, or imprisonment. At the present day rape is regarded as a felony (in America at least), and is punished by fine and imprisonment for a term of years. From the fact that, as a general rule, the crime of rape is committed in the absence of witnesses, the law usually admits the testimony of the victim to substantiate the charge. It is very essential, however, that medical testimony should be obtained as corroborative evidence, as probably nine-tenths of the accusations of rape are false. At one time the law demanded proofs of penetration as well as emission on the part of the male. At present proof is only required of vulval penetration, without the hymen being necessarily ruptured.
Rape of young children, as might be expected, is far commoner than that of adult women, children being incapable of offering much resistance, even when old enough to realize the nature and consequences of the act. Owing to the superstition prevailing in Europe, among the lower classes, that an old gonorrhoea is cured by intercourse with a virgin, rape of young children is far more common abroad than in America. If the victim be under sixteen years of age, her consent does not excuse the act. In cases of the insane, idiotic, or only feeble-minded, the consent of the female will not be accepted as an excuse 1 Guy and Ferrier: op. cit., p. 59.
for the act. Difficulty, however, is sometimes experienced in determining to what extent the reason of the female alleged to have been overcome is affected. It may be mentioned, in this connection, that the fact that a woman in a state of stupor has been subjected to rape would not be an excuse for the act; neither would submission from fear nor from ignorance of the nature of the crime. Further, even if the character of the woman was notoriously bad, yet, if it was in evidence that such a woman, a prostitute, for example, had been forced against her will, the act would be a rape. But, under such circumstances, it must be admitted that on account of the bad character of the woman the evidence would have to be very strong to convict.
In every alleged case of rape it is most important that the medical examiner should note exactly the time of making his examination, and also determine, so far as possible, the time elapsing since the act was committed, as this may subsequently become important evidence in proving whether or not the woman entered complaint at once, and submitted without delay to an examination, as also in enabling the defendant to prove an alibi. The female should be visited by the medical examiner as soon as possible after the perpetration of the crime, as all traces of rape, if such has been committed, may disappear in three or four days; or, in the event of the accusation being a false one, the woman should not be allowed time to produce artificially evidences simulating those of rape. In alleged cases of rape, a medical examination is not compulsory; but if a woman under such circumstances refuses to have an examination made, that in itself would be strong presumptive evidence against the truth of the charge.
In cases of rape the medical examiner may expect to find marks of violence about the genitalia, wounds, bruises,
etc., on both the person of the woman and of the accused, spermatic and blood-stains on the person and clothing of both, gonorrhoea or syphilis in one or both. Rape perpetrated upon young children by men is attended, as might be expected, on account of the great disproportion in size of the sexual organs, with far more severe local injuries than when committed upon adult women. Indeed, the absence of any such marks of violence would be strong proof of the charge of rape made being a false one.
If a child be examined within two or three days after the commission of the crime, the vulva will be usually found inflamed and swollen, and more or less covered with clotted blood, which has oozed from the abraded mucous membrane. From the vagina there flows a muco-purulent, ropy discharge of a yellowish-green color, which stains and stiffens the linen. Urination is frequently painful, from the inflammation extending to the urethra. The hymen may be destroyed, or only lacerated, or escape injury entirely. Too much importance, however, must not be attached by the medical examiner to the presence or absence of the hymen as disproving or proving a rape. Indeed, as a matter of fact, in most cases of rape upon children, the hymen escapes injury entirely, probably because it is situated in such cases far back. On the other hand, the hymen may have been destroyed, not necessarily by rape, but by disease, accident, or even intentionally, the object being in the latter case to extort money by a false accusation of rape.
The vagina is frequently found very much dilated in the case of young children who have been assaulted. The medical examiner should bear in mind, however, that such a dilated condition of the vagina has often been artificially produced by the introduction of hard bodies with the view
of fitting the children for sexual intercourse. It is very important that the muco-purulent discharge from the vagina just referred to as following rape should not be confounded with either infantile leucorrhoea, gangrenous inflammation of the vulva, or gonorrhoea. Infantile leucorrhoea occurs in unhealthy, particularly strumous children, whose hygienic surroundings are of the worst character. It should be borne in mind by the medical examiner that the presence of such a discharge in a young child is often taken advantage of by an unscrupulous mother to bring a charge of assault against an innocent man. Gangrenous inflammation of the vulva, less common than infantile leucorrhoea, is found among neglected children suffering from inanition, exhaustion, etc. As a general rule, the absence of blood and of bruises in a young child alleged to have been assaulted would be strong proof that the vaginal discharge was due rather to leucorrhoea or gangrenous inflammation than to the effects of violence.
In endeavoring to determine whether a vaginal discharge be due to gonorrhoea rather than to violence, the medical examiner should bear in mind that a gonorrhoeal discharge does not make its appearance until between the fourth and the eighth day, and is usually much more profuse and lasts longer than the muco-purulent discharge incidental to rape. In all alleged cases of rape it is important to determine whether the accused be affected with gonorrhoea or syphilis, since if the child be so diseased there would be strong proof of the guilt of the accused. It is possible, however, that either gonorrhoea or syphilis might be communicated to young children either accidentally or intentionally by means of sponges and towels that had been previously used by persons affected with these diseases, and that advantage
may be taken of this to accuse an innocent man of felonious assault. In all cases of alleged rape, the clothing and person of the female and of the accused should be carefully examined for seminal stains, which stiffen the linen or other wearing apparel very much as gum or albumen will do. There are several methods by which seminal stains can be identified, such as the yellow color assumed when gently heated or when dissolved in weak nitric acid or by the odor when moistened with warm water.
Spermatozoa of man: h, apparent nucleus; b, body; t, tail.
Trichomonas vaginalis, showing the large heads, with granules and cilia.
The only positive proof of semen, however, is the presence of spermatozoa, as shown by the microscope. A convenient method of obtaining the spermatozoa for microscopic examination is to cut out a piece of the material stained with the seminal discharge and place it in a watchglass containing distilled water. After the material has been thoroughly soaked, a drop of the liquid should then be transferred to a glass slide, and the latter placed on the stage of the microscope. In case of examining the hair of the female, to which the spermatozoa cling with great tenacity, the hair should be moistened with a drop of weak ammonia and examined with the microscope after the