Reducing Health Disparities in the Sexual Assault Exam Using Fluorescence Imaging

Period of Performance: 09/30/2006 - 06/30/2007


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Brenden Creative Consultants, LLC
Loveland, OH 45140
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Sexual assault and rape are known as the silent, violent epidemic because they lead to an estimated 2.6 million injuries to females each year, but women often do not report the assault or seek treatment. Strategies that improve the sensitivity of the forensic exam are known to increase reporting rates and increase the number of women who seek health care. This SBIR submission is the result of collaboration between a small business (Brenden Creative Consultants LLC), and a team of scientists at the University of Cincinnati and the Skin Science Institute at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The long term objective of this R&D proposal is to develop innovative techniques with commercial application to detect skin injury across the continuum of skin color. These applications ultimately will lead to products used for a forensic examination with a high sensitivity to predict rape. The short term objective is to explore innovative techniques that would improve the quantification, sensitivity, and reliability of skin injury detection in the forensic rape examination. This investigation is critical because the team has compelling evidence that health disparities in the forensic examination place women of color at a disadvantage. Racial/ ethnic differences in injury prevalence are likely explained by variation in genital injury visibility due to skin color. If injuries in Black/African American women are not detected they have a lower standard of health care, and have less success in the criminal justice system than their White couterparts. The R&D aspects of the proposal will give rise to a hardware system with accompanying software that will allow for improved injury visualization regardless of skin color through staining procedures, digital image capture, and digital image processing. In the Phase I portion of the SBIR, we propose to: 1) determine the utility of the flourescence imaging techniques as a method for detecting and quantifying epidermal injury in females; 2) compare the area and intensity of epidermal injury on a forearm model in females of different racial or ethnic identites; and 3) determine the feasibility of using the flourescence imaging technique and digital imaging processing as methods for detecting and quantifying mucosal injury in females of light and dark skin color. The demand for cost effective and yet sensitive applications to aid injury detection is growing. Approximately 1,000 sexual assault forensic examiner programs are registered, and many community hospitals are initiating programs across the U.S.