Project Aims to Solve More Rapes, Regardless of Victim’s Skin - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Project Aims to Solve More Rapes, Regardless of Victim’s Skin Color

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A University of Virginia nursing professor hopes her project will create equal footing for millions of sexual assault victims in their fight for justice. 

There are a number of resources available for sexual assault victims. One is a dye used to collect evidence - but it leaves some women at a disadvantage.  Professor Kathryn Laughon explained, "We use a dye that will turn any place where there's actually a tear or abrasion bright blue, but seeing that bright blue color relies on contrast so anyone who is dark-skinned, we find that we can't see as many injuries on." 

Laughon says about half of all women who are sexually assaulted have no injuries. "Lack of injury doesn't mean anything. It's like there's a theft at your house and no fingerprints. That doesn't mean the theft didn't happen, it just means that piece of evidence isn't there," she said. 

Laughon will soon begin testing a fluorescent dye that shows up on all skin tones, making it an even playing field for those seeking justice. 

"In cases where injuries are detected, those cases are twice as likely to move through the criminal justice system and be charged and twice as likely to result in guilty findings," Laughon said. 

Rebecca Weybright, executive director of the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, said, "I think for women who are victimized, they feel the injuries internally and if there's actually some external evidence that can help then yes, I feel that it will give them more confidence, more confidence in the whole system." 

Laughon and her colleagues are working to raise $19,000 to begin testing the new dye. Click here to learn more.

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