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Nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes. While many women sustain no injuries from the assault, as many as half of these victims do have injuries, which are often very small and hard to see. It is important to document these injuries, as cases involving documented injury are more likely to move through the criminal justice system and to result in a guilty verdict.

Our cross-disciplinary research team — led by Kathryn Laughon, RN, of the School of Nursing in collaboration with Shayn Peirce-Cottler of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Cassandra Fraser of the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts & Sciences — is working to develop a better technique for helping medical professionals identify these injuries.

Following sexual assault, forensic nurses and physicians use a blue dye called toluidine blue to visualize millimeters-wide tears and abrasions that are otherwise hard to see. This bright blue dye relies on contrast with the surrounding skin. It works well on women with light skin but poorly on women with darker skin. We're working to identify a new forensic dye that will illuminate injuries effectively on all skin tones.

We are raising $19,000 to begin testing fluorescent dye candidates for viability and human safety. This funding will support hiring two student researchers and purchasing a colorimeter to precisely assess skin color. The students will allow this work to progress rapidly and will be a terrific learning experience for them. The colorimeter will allow other researchers to replicate our findings with more reliability.

With your support, we hope to develop a technique that will help all women who are victims of sexual assault, regardless of the color of their skin.

A quarter of the way there!

Published On Fri Jun 21 21:01:16 2013
Thanks to everyone who's donated so far.  We now have  enough to buy our basic supplies and get at least some of our experiments done.  This work and the larger story of sexual assault was featured in a great piece on our local CBS affiliate.  Check it out:  http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/Nursing-Prof-Reducing-Inequality-in-Forensic-Exams-for-Sexual-Assault-Victims-212401661.html 

Making progress!

Published On Thu May 30 23:32:16 2013
The research team is incredibly grateful for the enthusiastic support for our project we've received. Feeling everyone's excitement about this work has been an unexpected benefit of reaching out to so many people.   A number of news outlets have covered this story.  You can see articles here and here.  

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Iron

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Your gift of $20 is enough to show your support for this important project!



Copper

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Your gift of $50 is enough to help us purchase the materials necessary to begin testing fluorescent dye candidates.



Bronze

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Your gift of $100 is enough to help us fund one week of a student's research in the lab.



Silver

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Your gift of $500 is enough to help us fund a student researcher for part of a semester.



Gold

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Your gift of $1,000 is enough to help us initiate human safety trials. If you are a U.Va. alumnus who completed your degree in the last five years, a gift of this size will also qualify you for membership to the Rotunda Society.



Platinum

Give $2500

Your gift of $2,500 is enough to help us purchase a colorimeter, the gold standard for assessing precise skin color, to advance this research. A gift of this size will also qualify you for membership to the Rotunda Society.