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Development of the Vulvar Acute Genital Injury Score (VAGIS) Instrument

  • Author(s): Benson, Alexa Anne
  • Advisor(s): Bates-Jensen, Barbara
  • et al.

Sexual assault prosecution incorporates forensic expert detection of AGI to support the forcible nature of suspected rape. Understanding how researchers are currently describing, detecting and measuring AGI after SA would help healthcare providers, SA researchers, law enforcement and the justice system communicate more consistently. An extensive literature review was performed which exposed the inconsistences researchers are currently using to detect and describe AGI after SA. Next, the Vulvar Acute Genital Injury Score (VAGIS) tool was developed using a modified e-Delphi method in a panel of 15 SA forensic experts. After a set of 53 digital images were judged for quality, a panel of 14 forensic examiners validated the images for use with the VAGIS tool. To further develop the VAGIS tool, a group of SA forensic examiners were tested for consistency at scoring the digital image set on the VAGIS. This is a call to all national forensic examiner organizations to come together with the common purpose of standardizing the language around acute genital injuries after SA. Standardizing communication in this area could improve services to individuals who suffer from sexual assault and increase confidence that the justice system designed to protect and defend victims is serving at its highest capacity.

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