Lubricants

Traces of lubricant found on vaginal or internal anal swabs may provide confirmatory evidence of recent penetration of a body orifice. This has particular relevance if a condom is worn during a penetrative act. Consequently, if the forensic practitioner has used lubricant (other than sterile water) on specula, proctoscopes, or gloved digits, it must be communicated to the forensic scientist. In terms of lubricant analysis, the most frequent request received by the forensic science service is to check vaginal swabs for the presence of condom lubricant. A review of cases at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department found that 19 of 80 complainants reported that either the assailant had worn a condom during the incident or they had experienced consensual intercourse with a partner wearing a condom within the 72 hours preceding the assault (Cook, Y. L., personal communication, 1993, and ref 192). The most commonly encountered lubricants applied directly to the penis to aid penetration are Vaseline® (petroleum-based product) and KY® Jelly (water-based product) (193). However, various other substances have been used to facilitate penetration during a sexual assault, including hand cream, cooking oil, and margarine, the diversity of the products apparently reflecting what is immediately at hand. Saliva is also used as a lubricant (see Heading 4 and Subheading 7.2.) (Keating, S. M., personal communication, 1992). The constituents of condom lubricant (e.g., silicon and polyethylene glycol) are also found in numerous other skin care products and suppositories. Therefore, when relevant, the forensic practitioner should ask if the complainant has applied anything to the genital/anal area in the preceding 2 days. This information should be noted on the paperwork that is made available to the forensic scientist so that scientist can source the relevant product to check what it contains. Dusting agents used on condoms may also be detected in the form of starch grains and lycopodium spores and can be used to correlate the finding of condom lubricant (Black, R., personal communication, 2002). The same dusting agents are used on some clinical gloves. Therefore, the forensic practitioner should wear nonpowdered gloves when sampling the genital and anal area (194).

To maximize the possibility of lubricant detection, the necessary swabs should be obtained as soon as possible after the incident. The forensic science laboratory must then be told that lubricant analysis may be relevant, because this potentially requires scientists from more than one discipline to examine the same sample, e.g., when both body fluids and lubricant analysis are requested. If the forensic science laboratory is not made aware of this requirement, potential evidence could be inadvertently destroyed during laboratory processes.

Many factors may affect the length of time that a lubricant will persist on skin or in a body orifice. Condom lubricant has been detected on a swab taken from an unwashed penis 50 hours after intercourse and, in a different case, on a vaginal swab (also when the complainant had not washed or douched) taken 24 hours after intercourse, but detection after such prolonged periods would appear to be exceptional (Black, R., personal communica tion, 2002); water-based lubricants (e.g., those containing polyethylene glycol) have only been detected within 8 hours of the sexual act (193,195).

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