This session was inspired by the @salemandreus's idea about the social aspect of sexual crime management.
From the legal perspective, the best evidence of the rape or sexual assault is, unfortunately, the semen of the rapist found inside the victim's vagina and the physiological signs of the violent sexual act. Combined with the psychological examination of the victim, comprehensive rapist evaluation, and conversation with the people close to the victim and the rapist, it still results in a lousy and long-lasting way of finding the truth. Plus, all the parts can be hijacked. Even the strongest physiological evidence can be artificially created (e.g. at first a normal mutually satisfactory rough sexual act, "repurposed").
What can a victim do if there is no phone that could activate the GPS location tracker, camera, or voice recorder? What if the victim does not suspect because the person is someone close?
In these situations, what can help the truth to be found?
Can we find a better physiological, psychological, or other sign of sexual crime or other violent sexual acts?
Is there a specific biomarker of sexual crime/trauma?
How can a violent sexual act be unquestionably proved on court in non black&white situations?
This is a partial solution or rather a preventive measure before engaging in sexual activities for both partners to clearly define in words and on paper that they are willing to engage in the act, what specific sexual activities are acceptable for each of them, then indicate the chosen date and maybe even time of the act and sign the form. The form is best to be signed in front of a witness (the filling/signing process could also be filmed, etc.). Each party then has a copy of the form.
While at first this might seem funny, it's actually a useful thing in the context of rape/sexual assault. It's getting popular amongst people who engage in rough and so-called kinky sex. If someone clearly violated the agreement during the act this could be proved by reviewing the consent form in combination with physiological evidence. Of course, this is still tricky, can be faked, etc., but it adds an additional layer of security/proof. While it might be a major turn-off to sign forms before having sex, on the other hand, it encourages people to talk openly about their dos and don'ts in advance rather than keeping silent and expecting everything to fall into place naturally.
Trauma biomarkers repurposed and combined with other stress biomarkers as a new approach
JuranJul 10, 2021
For some cases of sexual violence, there are numerous physiological proofs and for some, there are almost none, but a heavy burden of awful memories. To make all sex crime cases measurable, I would link to @Darko Savic's contibution and suggest a repurposing of several trauma biomarkers and creating a trauma-stress standardized panel.
The panel would focus on physiological signs of experienced trauma. This is a newly suggested approach to sexual abuse, often seen in cases of child trauma, PTSD, or other trauma detection and treatment protocols. Victims would be tested on a combination of serum-based tests that could help the medical personnel assess the existence, specificity, severity, and length of reported trauma.
The proposed biomarkers are:
Blood-brain barrier (BBB) stress biomarkers (example of S100B protein)
It was shown that stress can activate inflammatory response and affect the BBB function. Since BBB separates the brain circulation from the body, disruptions in BBB can result in "leaking" of some proteins usually found only in brain. One of those is the S100B protein, already shown to be increased in children and adults which experienced a childhood trauma, sexual violence. The high S100B levels were also linked with high score on Life Events Checklist (LEC), which "assesses exposure to sexual abuse or other unwanted sexual experience, natural disasters, emotional neglect, death in family, fire or explosion, serious accident, toxic substance, physical assault, assault with a weapon, combat, captivity, life-threatening illness, severe human suffering, violent death and serious injury." Therefore, it is very likely that sexual trauma caused by the rape or other act of sexual violence can be partially addressed by measurement of S100B levels .
In order to be implemented in the legal system, the S100B test should be standardised, described in terms of time passed from the event to the time of sampling and used along with data from LEC to define the individual specificity of the test. For example, other childhood trauma can lower the specificity of the S100B test.
Epigenetic biomarkers of overactive fight-or-fligh system
Some papers suggest that certain epigenetic markers (cytosine methylation in promoter regions of the glucocorticoid related NR3C1 and FKBP51 genes, CpG sites within the AHRR locus associated with reduced DNA methylation, etc.) have shown to be specific in distinguising between PTSD and non-PTSD groups of patients . If proved in several other experiments, the same biomarkers could be used to prove the sexual trauma.
Trauma biomarkers, combined with other investigated stress biomarkers (Figure 1.), could become a routine metrics while examining the sex crime victims and later, all stress-related diseases or disorders, too.
Figure 1. A summary of key PTSD and potentially, general trauma biomarkers currently being evaluated .
Cortisol is a built-in alarm system of the body released into the circulation as a response to stress. Since it is impossible to measure the levels of cortisol in the blood at the time of the event (retrospectively), scientists found a way how to trace the levels of cortisol at certain times in the past. It is known that cortisol can affect the function and cyclic regulation of the hair follicle . In 2013, scientists measured the hair folicle level of cortisol in the control group and the group of patients that experienced stress . They found a strong negative correlation of cortisol levels in hair and " the severity of intrusion symptoms, the number of different traumatic events, the frequency of traumatization, and the time interval since traumatization".
The idea would be to extract the hair along with the follicle, cut it into small ordered pieces and analyze cortisol levels in all of them. That way, hair cortisol levels can be used not only to confirm the existence of stressful events in a patient's past but also to identify the exact time of the stressful event, since the hair has a (more or less) known rate of growth.
If combined with the Life Event Checklist questionnaire and other standard medical tests, hair cortisol levels could serve as unbeatable proof on the court.
Distinguishing different kinds of trauma
Darko SavicJul 09, 2021
If there were something like let's say epigenetic biomarkers of trauma that could be detected, could they be distinguishable based on what happened to the person? Would it hold up in court? Could it be faked to extort someone (Michael Jackson type of person)?
Povilas SJul 13, 2021
Brain imaging methods are getting more and more advanced, even now it's almost up to the point of reading one's mind. If it became possible to tell from neuroimaging methods whether the memory a person is experiencing is a real memory or imagined/faked this would be all the proof that's necessary for sexual crime cases. I just can't help but link this scene from Blade Runner 2049 here, I know it's not directly related but nevertheless fits the context.
The systems combining neuroimaging methods with powerful AI are getting better and better at recreating images and other sensory input from specific localized patterns of neural activity. With time it might become possible to visualize someone's memories on the screen.
It's often argued that it's too difficult to tell what actually happened from a person's memory because subjective perspectives influence the process of memory formation, but in the context of sexual crimes it would be enough to be sure that the victim is thinking of/remembering the traumatic event (and not imagining or remembering something else in order to fake the emotional response) and that the memory is real in a sense that it represents the event that actually happened. Just to tell the fact that sexual violence was used doesn't require recreating much circumstantial detail.
Factual events stored as memories in a person's brain should differ from products of imagination because they are created by sensory input, so they should carry more "mental weight". So it doesn't seem unlikely that a neuroimaging system capable of telling the difference can be developed. Such a system would be immensely helpful in solving crime cases of almost any kind.
To be sure that the person is not simply tapping into a different real traumatic memory on purpose, sensory input related to the crime could be presented - like a picture of the perpetrator or a leading person could assist by asking questions, reminding of the event, etc. The system could also recreate the image of the perpetrator from a remembered crime scene by reading specific patterns of the victim's neural activity, similarly to what is done here.
Make the Victim and the Perpetrator Narrate the Story while their Heartbeats are monitored.
Samuel BelloJul 27, 2021
This is just like using a lie detector to determine if the narrator is telling the truth. The narrator's facial expressions, body language, and physiological conditions will be recorded and analyzed by AI and psychologists. Both the plaintiff and the defendant should be present when either party narrates what happened. The feed from both parties will be cross-referenced to have a better idea of what the truth is. The psychologists, with the help of AI, will deduce the likeliest scenarios from the testimony and physiological indicators of the witnesses. This form of investigation is not restricted to rape cases, it can be employed in any case where there is more than one witness and the accounts given by the witnesses differ. This will make our legal system more efficient and just.
A possible setback to this form of investigation is that the truth might be hard to find if one or both of the involved parties was intoxicated during or before the alleged rape.