DOJ Issues Guidelines for Medical Examinations of Sexual Assault Victims

shutterstock_70460173New national guidelines on forensic medical examination in sexual assault cases were released by the Department of Justice this Wednesday. In addition to focusing on the victim’s emotional and physical wellbeing during medical examinations, the guidelines also clearly state a recommendation that sexual assault victims are offered emergency contraception. In the case that the medical staff has moral objections, the patient must be informed where they can immediately obtain emergency contraception.

The last guidelines were issued in 2004 and were mostly focused on criminal prosecution. The new guidelines [PDF] prioritize the victim’s emotional and physical needs over criminal prosecution. Bea Hanson, the director of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, cites this shift in priority as a means to help the victim and law enforcement better collaborate.  “Research shows that once victims get support, they’re more likely to cooperate with the criminal justice system,” Hanson said.

A former investigator of sex crimes for the Phoenix Police Department, Sergeant Jim Markey, described the new guidelines as “long overdue.” He explained, “What this does is this allows workers in the trenches, those victim advocates, those detectives and nurses, to go to the decision makers and leaders in their communities and say: ‘You know what? Here are the standards. We need the resources to provide the minimum standards that are in this protocol.’ ”

Media Resources: Huffington Post 4/26/13; The New York Times 4/24/13; National Criminal Justice Reference Service

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