New Standards Issued for Sexual Assault Exams

Department of Justice seal. Eagle carrying an olive branch flying over an American flag. Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the release of the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, designed to prescribe the methods by which evidence should be collected and specify what equipment should be available for the examination.

Revised from voluntary guidelines issued in 2004, the new standards are mandatory for practitioners working in federal prisons or in the military (and it is hoped that all states will follow them). The guidelines emphasize the critical importance of a coordinated team approach between law enforcement officers, prosecutors, advocates, and health professionals, and prioritize the complex physical and emotional needs victims of sexual assault.

They guidelines also state that voluntary drug or alcohol use by a victim has no impact on the seriousness of the crime committed against them. They also encourage case practitioners, in instances where a victim is reluctant to report the crime, to encourage — but not force or overly pressure — to have a forensic medical exam so that the evidence is collected and available for later use.

Read more about forensic exams here.

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