Book Review: The Technoscientific Witness of Rape: Contentious Histories of Law, Feminism and Forensic Science

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Andrea Quinlan (2017) explores the efficacy of the Ontario Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK) in her recent book, The Technoscientific Witness of Rape. SAEKs (also referred to as rape exams or rape kits) are standardized kits that contain tools, instructions, and forms for medical examiners to use when collecting forensic evidence from the bodies of sexual assault victims. Tools range from vials for collecting urine samples to more complex apparatus for photographing internal bruising (see Shaw & Campbell, 2013). The book evaluates the tool kit from the perspectives of various parties involved with its use during an investigation: the medical professionals who administrate the kit; the legal professionals who use the kit as legal evidence; the victims of rape and sexual assault who endure the kit's protocols; and the anti-rape activists who face numerous hurdles in their attempts to assist victims of rape. The book focuses primarily on negative implications of the SAEK for both anti-rape activists and the actual victims. Using interviews with police officers, nurses, advocates, and victims, the author highlights the adverse effects the forensic kit has had since being introduced to the Ontario criminal justice system in the late 1970s. Although The Technoscientific Witness of Rape focuses specifically on the Ontario SAEK, similar forensic testing kits and protocols are employed in many jurisdictions globally (see Du Mont & White, 2007). Thus, the assertions made within the book have much wider relevance to the use SAEKs globally. Note that the term “victim” is used throughout the book to refer to individuals who have experienced sexual assault. The author justifies this imperfect terminology as “reflect[ing] the historical and contemporary contexts in which the kit operates” (Quinlan, 2017, p. 24); accordingly, the present review uses the same terminology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100017
Number of pages3
JournalForensic Science International: Mind and Law
Early online date22 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


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