Women's knickers may reveal assault truths
From: The Press: press.co.nz
Forensic scientists are studying women's knickers and how they tear to help police determine whether a sexual-assault complaint is authentic.
The Otago University study on how several types of common underwear fabric tear under force has been published in the latest Forensic Science International journal.
Researchers said the results could be important in cases of false sexual assault accusations where underwear had been torn using scissors or a knife.
The paper said identifying a false sexual-assault claim was difficult, and often damage to clothing was the only form of forensic evidence.
"False criminal reports are a reality for law-enforcement officials, waste police, forensic and judicial resources, and can lead to a possible miscarriage of justice," it said.
"Damage to knicker fabrics does not appear to have been systematically investigated previously."
The researchers looked at three knit fabrics, both new and laundered and typical of those used to manufacture knickers, and a machine was used to mimic tearing.
"Apparel collected at crime scenes is likely to have been worn and laundered multiple times prior to the event. Hence, from a forensic perspective, it is important to understand how laundering affects the behaviour of fabrics and any damage to the fabric produced in the commission of a crime," the paper said.
The study looked at fabrics, not garments, and the researchers warned the results of the study "may not be appropriate to apply to actual garments".