A forensic nurse and associate professor at George Mason University has discovered and developed a way to detect bruising more easily on dark skin tones in the hopes of helping more victims of domestic violence and abuse.
Dr. Katherine Scafide worked as an emergency room and trauma nurse, and said she was amazed by the number of serious injuries she saw.
That pushed her to pursue a career in forensic nursing to help victims of domestic violence.
“I became fascinated by the specific care that they need in a time in which they were quite vulnerable,” Scafide said.
She said injuries like bruises were harder to see with the naked eye, especially when the victims were people of color.
”Without being able to see them, there’s nothing for me to document,” Scafide said. “If I can’t document the injury, the individuals who have experienced this violence, unfortunately, they don’t have the evidence to really support the possible prosecution of the assailant.”
Scafide began researching Alternate Light Sources (ALS) with specific wavelengths in the hopes of finding a solution to the problem.
“We were able to discover which wavelengths provide the best ability to detect bruises,” Scafide said. “And we discovered blue and the violet lights work the best.”
Scafide led a study, which found that ALS were five-times better at detecting bruises on diverse skin tones compared to white lights.
She said the technology is working in Baltimore, where Mercy Medical Center has started using it, and it has been introduced into court evidence in some domestic violence and assault cases. Scafide is hoping to expand the use of the technology both regionally and nationally.
“Forensic nursing units haven’t necessarily adopted this equipment for a variety of reasons: due to the lack of clinical practice guidelines, the cost of the equipment, the concern that there isn’t sufficient research to support its practice, and we’re looking to change that,” Scafide said.
Scafide said the forensic nursing unit at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Maryland, is anticipating take on the technology, but to do so, her team must work closely with prosecutors and law enforcement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey states that nearly 1 in 2 women report experiencing physical violence, sexual violence or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. Slightly more black women, nearly 54%, reported experiencing violence or stalking.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), visiting www.thehotline.org or texting LOVEIS to 22522.