Sperm Survivability

Historically, the courts and legal professions have placed a high significance on sperm detection as confirmatory evidence for rape. 9 The presence of sperm or seminal constituents in the vagina is evidence of recent sexual intercourse. The detection of sperm depends on several factors, including time lapse between the rape and the physical examination, whether the assailant is azoospermic, whether the victim douched prior to examination, and whether the assailant ejaculated. 4l0ll Previous studies suggest that one-third to one-half of sexual assault victims will have sperm detected as part of the evidentiary examination. 7,12

There is general agreement in the literature that 2 to 3 h is the average time for loss of sperm motility in a majority of patients. -I1 Nonmotile sperm may persist for up to 24 h in the vagina and rectum and for up to several days in the cervical mucus. «I1 In the mouth, seminal fluid is usually destroyed within hours by salivary enzymes. Semen stains found on the patient's body, clothing, or at the site of the assault (e.g., on bedding) often are useful in obtaining biologic specimens for forensic analysis.

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