"We're carrying out crime prevention, because we're helping to ensure that the victims actually help the next potential victim. I really like that approach. We're completely objective and bring knowledge, orderliness and method. So in this way, we're a checklist for both the living and the dead."
Rape cases are among the most complicated cases in the legal system, because they are often word against word. Deputy State-appointed Forensic Pathologist Ole Ingemann Hansen has spent a large part of his career working to ensure that the right person is brought to justice on the most informed basis possible.
Ole Ingemann Hansen, born 1972, is a forensic pathologist, deputy state-appointed forensic pathologist and associate professor at the Department of Forensic Medicine at Aarhus University. Here he is head of the research unit for clinical forensic medicine, which focuses on victims of violence and rape, child abuse, perpetrators and the clinical forensic examination.
As a newly qualified medical doctor, Ole Ingemann Hansen came to the Department of Forensic Medicine in 2001. Here he wrote his PhD dissertation on the subject of rape from the viewpoint of forensic medicine.
"The myth was that the typical perpetrator suddenly jumps out from behind a tree – but in the vast majority of cases, the victim and the perpetrator know each other," says Ole Ingemann Hansen on the debasing of myths which has been a major focal point for him.
"It can be difficult to prove that the rape has happened, because there are often no injuries or lesions. When I began in the field, many policemen believed that if there was no injury or evidence of semen, then nothing happened.
But policemen and judges have become much better informed, and I’ve been involved in the whole process of educating the police and legal system together with the Centre for Victims of Sexual Assault," says the deputy state-appointed forensic pathologist, who has been affiliated with the Centre for Victims of Sexual Assault since 2001, initially as a member of the working group and subsequently the steering committee.
About once a month, Ole Ingemann Hansen acts as an expert witness in court. In rape cases, he refers to his own role as "the third witness".
"In a rape situation, the victim may freeze, flee or fight, and many describe how they freeze. This is the legal system's Achilles' heel, because before the Danish consent legislation came into force in 2021, the victim had to prove that there was a clear no."
In the courtroom, the forensic pathologist has the task of presenting facts and responding to hypotheses.
"We're carrying out crime prevention, because we're helping to ensure that the victims actually help the next potential victim. I really like that approach. We're completely objective and bring knowledge, orderliness and method. So in this way, we're a checklist for both the living and the dead," says Ole Ingemann Hansen.
In 2013, he created an overview of best practice for securing evidence from clinical forensic examination. He has also written a number of scientific articles and textbook chapters, and is co-author of an anthology targeted at professionals which deals with the journey rape victims experience in the legal system.
He has been co-supervisor on research that demonstrated that people who were charged with rape had previously been charged – that there was an over-representation. This had political repercussions and led to the current practice of allowing trace evidence to be kept for a longer period of time.
"Our research can be used by our peers, in the sector cooperation and in crime prevention. I think making a contribution to society through research is exciting," he says.