Just Technology to Improve Sexual Assault Bruise Detection

Just Technology to Improve Sexual Assault Bruise Detection

Original Release Date: April 26, 2024

In this 2024 Sexual Assault Awareness Month special release episode, Just Science sat down with Dr. Katherine Scafide, associate professor and sexual assault response researcher at George Mason University, to discuss how her team is developing methods to improve the visibility of bruises on black and brown skin tones following a sexual assault involving victims of color. 

During a sexual assault medical forensic exam, capturing injuries such as bruises can be crucial for helping bring a case to justice. To address the challenge of bruise visibility on victims with darker skin tones, researchers are developing methods and technological solutions that better detect and capture skin discoloration for certain cases as well as lead to improved outcomes and promote greater equity for victims of marginalized communities. Listen along as Dr. Scafide discusses how her clinical background informs her current sexual assault response research, the importance of consulting clinical practice guidelines before adopting a new technology, and how her work aims to address equity and inclusivity in sexual assault response. 

This episode is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (Award No. 15PNIJ-21-GK-02192-MUMU). 

Some content in this podcast may be considered sensitive and may evoke emotional responses, or may not be appropriate for younger audiences. 

Listen to or download the episode here:

View or download the episode transcript here:

Episode Citation

Chute, J. & Scafide, K. (2024, April 26). Just Science. Just Technology to Improve Sexual Assault Bruise Detection. [Audio podcast episode]. National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence. 

Guest Biography

Dr. Katherine Scafide is a tenured Associate Professor, forensic nurse and scientist at George Mason University’s School of Nursing in College of Public Health. Her years of forensic nursing practice caring for living and deceased victims of violence has contributed significantly to her program of research. Her research primarily focuses on advancing equity in the medical identification and forensic documentation of injuries, particularly for patients of color, through innovative use of technology. She has received several federal awards to support these efforts. Dr. Scafide began her journey as a bruise scientist during her doctoral work at Johns Hopkins where she garnered the name “paintball” lady for her unique method of creating injuries. At George Mason, she collaborated with colleagues at Texas A & M and Georgia State Universities, conducting one of the largest and most diverse bruise studies in modern forensic history. Their investigation identified specific wavelengths of visible light which significantly improved the detection of bruises over current practices across diverse skin tones. Those findings have since garnered national media and celebrity attention. Dr. Scafide developed and evaluated clinical guidelines to support the implementation of this technology into forensic nursing practice. Her interdisciplinary research teams include a collaboration with health informatics and engineering experts to investigate whether deep learning of the digital images in conjunction with health information data can be used to detect and characterize bruises. Finally, Dr. Scafide is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and an affiliate of NIST’s Organization of Scientific Area of Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC). 

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this podcast episode are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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