January 14, 2015
There is currently a very welcome national trend across the country emphasizing alternative reporting methods for sexual assault victims. It is partly the result of provisions in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that were first enacted in 2005 and remain in effect under the current 2013 reauthorization. This is an area known as forensic compliance, and it is critically important to understand because these legislative provisions have dramatically altered the options available for victims to report sexual assault.
Yet implementing forensic compliance and other alternative reporting methods requires addressing many complex issues regarding: evidence collection, storage, reporting methods, records retention, retrieval, and collaboration with hospitals and other community agencies such as victim advocacy organizations. For example, if a sexual assault victim has a medical forensic examination without personally reporting to law enforcement, how long will the evidence be stored? How will the case be recorded and tracked by the law enforcement agency? Who will victims contact if they want to convert to a standard reporting procedure? If victims choose an alternative reporting procedure, such as anonymous or non-investigative reporting, will it be investigated anyway? Or will the victim be allowed to decide when and if an investigation will proceed? Who will contact the advocacy organization, to ensure victims have access to the information, support, and other valuable services that an advocate can offer?
These are complex issues, and many communities have worked toward creative solutions to go beyond the “letter of the law” to honor the “spirit of the law” which is to increase victim access to the criminal justice system and other community resources. In other words, many Sexual Assault Response and Resource Teams (SARRTs) are enacting reforms designed to “open more doors” for sexual assault victims.
In this webinar, we will explore a number of community models that have been implemented to improve victims’ access to the criminal justice and community response systems. Best practices will be reviewed from across the country, and existing tools and resources will be evaluated. With a focus on local implementation, our goal is for participants to leave prepared to make recommendations for positive changes in their own communities.
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 in this publication/program are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.