Announcements & News

April 15, 2016

Marshall University BSN nursing students attend sessions on forensic science and the role of DNA in sexual assaults

DNA Analyst working on Sexual Assault case in laboratory

Students from the Marshall University School of Nursing in the Bachelor of Science Nursing Program (B.S.N.) learned about forensic science this week so they can gain a better understanding of the role Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners play in providing the best DNA evidence in sexual assault cases and the role of digital forensics in these investigations.

President Barack Obama proclaimed April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in support of survivors of sexual assault and increasing awareness to prevent these crimes and make communities safer.

On Wednesday, April 13, and Thursday, April 14, Dr. Terry W. Fenger, director of Marshall’s Forensic Science Center, taught nursing students from Dr. Nancy Elkins’ class about the process of DNA testing sexual assault kits and providing detailed documentation related to sexual assaults. The future nursing professionals learned about the importance and critical nature of the role registered nurses play as one of the first responders providing care to sexual assault victims.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are registered nurses who receive specialized training in the complete assessment, evaluation and treatment of adult or pediatric sexual assault survivors.

Fenger said the specialized care SANE nurses provide helps sexual assault victims find justice. “They are trained on how to recognize and properly collect and preserve evidence, which may yield the DNA profile of the individual who committed the assault and lead to a conviction.”

Digital devices also need to be treated as evidence and collected from the victim, Fenger said.

“A victim in the emergency room may have a cell phone or other digital device which may contain information about the attacker and yield a conviction,” he said. “The sessions offer an opportunity for Marshall’s nursing students to become informed about sexual assaults and the process of testing sexual assault kits,” Fenger said. “We hope it will encourage them to consider the additional training to become SANE nurses after graduation when they enter the workforce.”

Yesterday the nursing students received a tour of the Marshall Forensic Science Center’s nationally accredited forensic DNA laboratories and its digital forensic investigative laboratory, which works in collaboration with West Virginia State Police investigators. The forensic DNA laboratories have conducted DNA testing on over 2,000 sexual assault kits from jurisdictions in other states. The WVSP Digital Forensic Unit operates an Internet Crimes Against Children Unit and conducts investigations that involve digital devices (smartphones) as evidence.



  • Mary Thomasson
  • Public Information Officer

  • Marshall University
    Forensic Science Center
  • 1401 Forensic Science Drive
  • Huntington, WV 25701