A key dimension of the institutional response to sexual assault is the forensic medical examination of a victim's body conducted for purpose of documenting, collecting and testifying to corroborative evidence. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with forensic examiners and forensic nurse practitioners in one region of England, this study addresses a gap in the existing research on medico-legal processes, and critically examines the nature and dynamics of the relationship between doctors and nurses involved in this intervention. Using an analytic framework based on Thomas Gieryn's notion of ‘boundary-work’, we explore how this historically gendered dyadic relationship is experienced and understood in a context influenced by both medicine and law. We demonstrate very clear boundaries demarcating (i) physicians as experts and nurses as non-experts in the collection and representation of medical evidence, and, (ii) physicians as equated with technical competence and nurses with ‘caring’ duties. We conclude by positing implications that may stem from these professional relations with respect to sexual assault evidence, professionals and victims.
- forensic medical examination
- sexual assault