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Forensic Compliance Resources

Note:  The information on this website is designed to:  (a) communicate the requirements of the Violence Against Women Act (as reauthorized in 2005 and 2013), and (b) offer recommended practices for implementation.  The goal is to highlight examples of communities striving to achieve a higher standard of the “spirit of the law,” rather than simply meeting the “letter of the law” for VAWA forensic compliance.  It is critically important that readers consult state laws and regulations, as well as local policies and protocols, because they may have additional requirements beyond those included in VAWA 2005 and VAWA 2013.  For more information specific to your state or territory, contact the STOP Grant Administrator or coalition of advocacy organizations providing services for sexual assault victims.  A listing is available from the website for the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. 
Colorado Report on Implementation of Forensic Compliance

An outstanding report summarizes the results of a statewide assessment of forensic compliance in the state of Colorado. The report was produced collaboratively by the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) and the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. Released in September 2013, the findings are based on an analysis of 151 “medical reporting cases” (i.e., cases where a medical forensic exam was conducted without law enforcement involvement) and survey responses from 239 multidisciplinary professionals. With careful research and clear presentation, the report offers an example for other states seeking to determine how forensic compliance is being implemented statewide and identify areas for additional improvement.

Texas Report on Implementation of Forensic Compliance

An extremely helpful report summarizes the results of a statewide assessment of forensic compliance in the state of Texas. Researchers in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas (Austin) conducted hundreds of in-depth interviews and web-based surveys with: Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), medical personnel, rape crisis center advocates, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and state agency personnel. Results suggest that the “non-report program” has been successful, yet challenges remain. Interview quotes enliven key findings. Lead authors are Dr. Noël Bridget Busch-Armendariz and Laurie Cook Heffron.

Community Self-Assessment Tool

Perhaps the best place to start is the self-assessment tool we have developed, for communities to evaluate their current practices with respect to medical forensic examinations. Conducting this self-assessment will likely require the participation of professionals from a range of disciplines involved in the criminal justice and community response to sexual assault. This includes: law enforcement personnel, forensic examiners, victim advocates, prosecutors, crime lab personnel, victim-witness assistance professionals, and others providing health care and social services. Questions to be answered as part of the self-assessment process address:

  • Forensic examinations conducted without a report to law enforcement
  • Mandated reporting requirements
  • Information provided to victims regarding their reporting options
  • Procedures for documentation, records storage, and case tracking
  • Evidence processing, destruction, and victim notification
  • Anonymous reporting procedures

We have posted the self-assessment tool in Word format, so it can be filled in by community professionals. If you need the document in another format (e.g., PDF), please let us know.

Maryland Assessment of SAFE Programs

A statewide assessment of Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) programs was conducted in 2011 by the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA). Some findings pertain to exams conducted without the patient providing identifying information to law enforcement. This includes the number of exams conducted with such “Jane/John Doe” clients (p. 7), questions of evidence storage location and length (p. 8-9), victim notification regarding evidence destruction (p. 9), and access to records (p. 9).

Victim Assistance Survey - South Carolina

In an effort to identify both strengths and opportunities within their multidisciplinary response to sexual assault, practitioners in South Carolina developed this survey for health care providers across the state. Future surveys are now being developed for victim advocates, law enforcement officers, and other collaborative partners. The resulting report will be used to enhance the coordination of care, evidence collection, law enforcement investigations, judiciary outcomes, and victim assistance in South Carolina.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2013-TA-AX-K045 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.
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