Alexa A. Benson

Forensic colleagues, faculty, students, lawyers, law enforcement, and forensic nurses of the future – what an exciting time to be a part of forensic nursing! My research began in 2006, during my final year at California State University, Long Beach, with a burning question from Dr. Carolyn Sachs at Forensic Nurse Specialists, Inc. She wanted to know how consistent our examiners were in determining acute genital injury after sexual assault. During this study we learned about our group of examiners, about our use of terminology (or lack thereof), and about how to improve the design of the next reliability study.

I developed this website not only for the participants of my study, but as a guide to those interested in the development, validation and reliability testing of a tool or scale. Please check out the “Future Research” menu option, where you can find a list of the three committee-agreed upon papers to fulfill the requirements of the PhD degree (dissemination plan), as well as my plans to expand on this research both nationally and internationally. You will find that this website will evolve as my education and research evolves. I thank you again for visiting!

You can access the results of the “Development, Validity and Reliability of the Vulvar Acute Genital Injury Score (VAGIS) Instrument” via ProQuest:

Why is this research important?
Sexual assault prosecution incorporates forensic expert detection of acute genital injury (AGI) to support the forcible nature of suspected rape. The forensic examiner uses a combination of visual inspection, nuclear dye staining and macro-digital imaging during the genital exam to substantiate their detection of injury. The expert forensic examiner must be able to interpret injuries correctly and with a high degree of certainty. Because describing and measuring AGI after sexual assault has never been formally tested using strict protocols or scientific methodologies, the U.S. Justice system is basing its legal decisions on mentorship, peer discussion and chart review. While widely discussed in the literature, AGI after sexual assault lacks a common language with regard to term descriptions and injury measurement (Sommers, 2007).

Specific aims of the study:

  1. Determine the content and face validity of the vulvar acute genital injury score (VAGIS) using a modified electronic Delphi (e-Delphi) method in a national panel of SA forensic experts. (Phase I)
  2. Determine the validity of a set of digital images for each item using the VAGIS by a panel of experienced SA forensic examiners. (Phase II)
  3. Determine the inter-rater and intra-rater reliability of the VAGIS when used to rate a set of digital images by lay examiners. (Phase III)