Pauline Saint-Martin, a forensic pathologist on the trail of human violence

“The skin of a victim is a book. “ That Tuesday, in Tours, the forensic pathologist Pauline Saint-Martin recounts it. The marks left by the violence. Their reading by the coroner. Medicine for the dead, but above all for the living: “Autopsies represent less than 10% of our activity, presents the head of department of the forensic institute (IML) of the University Hospital of Tours, pivotal center in the Center-Val de Loire region. We mainly examine victims of live violence, sometimes twenty per day while we are configured for eight. “

In 2020, the IML took in 3,500 (20% more than in 2019), including 400 for sexual violence, 500 for domestic violence (non-sexual) and 1,000 minors, most of them on judicial requisition after a filing complaint. With her frank words, anchored in reality, Pauline Saint-Martin captivates her audience: these police officers, gendarmes, social workers and associative employees are trained on sexual violence as part of the departmental protocol for the prevention and fight against violence against women. women (prefecture of Indre-et-Loire). For the specialist, this is an opportunity to send a key message: the people collecting the confidences must quickly refer the victims to the medico-legal units (UMJ), the consultation service of the forensic institute.

“The bruises disappear in a few days on a beaten child, in two to three weeks on an adult”

Because time is running out. On the book-skin, the words are ephemeral: “The bruises disappear in a few days on a beaten child, in two to three weeks on an adult. In the event of rape, samples for DNA and toxicants must be taken within five days. “ The forensic professor scans every square inch for a lesion. Abrasion of the blade of a knife on the neck. Contention marks on the buttocks. “Benign lesions sometimes testify to serious facts, such as signs of strangulation. “

Wear discipline

But not all territories have a UMJ. In the Center-Val de Loire region, after opening in mid-October in Bourges (Cher), three departments remain without it. So it is not a forensic scientist who notices the lesions, but an untrained doctor. In cases of serious violence, Pauline Saint-Martin commonly deplores the lack of solid findings. “When the lesions disappear, it becomes impossible to interpret them. These elements are lost forever ”, regrets the one who attends assize courts ten to fifteen times a year. Expert at the Orléans Court of Appeal, since 2020 she has been an expert approved by the Court of Cassation, where she advises on complex cases.

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Pauline Saint-Martin, a forensic pathologist on the trail of human violence

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