Facing Victims: Forensics, Visual Technologies, and Sexual Assault Examination

Document Type


Publication Date


Source Publication

Medical Anthropology


This article analyzes a particular legal-medical artifact: the photos of wounds and injuries collected by forensic nurses who work with sexual assault victim-patients. I show how forensic expertise draws on multiple medical practices and adapts these practices with the goal of preserving the integrity of the evidence collection processes. In particular, forensic nurse examiners practice a rigid regime of draping and avoiding the victim-patient's gaze at other points in the examination. Unlike the examination, the photograph itself deliberately pictures the patient's gaze to break the plane of the image, giving the photographic artifact an affective charge as a truth-preserving object within a juridical process. Focusing on forensic photography sheds light on the techno-scientific possibilities that enable forensic encounters as they align therapeutic techniques with legal directives in new and problematic ways.


Medical Anthropology, Volume 30, Number 3 (2011). pp 271-294. DOI: 10.1080/01459740.2011.561820