This information is designed to:
- communicate the requirements of the Violence Against Women Act (as reauthorized in 2005 and 2013), and
- 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.
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.
This spreadsheet was compiled by the Florida Council on Sexual Violence, to document the number of forensic examinations conducted in the state without a report to law enforcement. Information is also recorded on the county where the exams took place, the size of the population served, and the number of forcible rapes reported to the FBI in the Uniform Crime Reporting program – for comparison purposes. The number of exams that convert to a standard report is also recorded, along with the specific agency conducting the exams, and their evidence procedures. This is an excellent place for communities to start in developing a data collection system. It allows community professionals to immediately identify which communities are conducting more of these exams, and which are seeing more victims convert to a standard report. This could help to identify best practices in those communities that are encouraging victim participation in the investigation, even if they were initially unsure or unwilling to do so. Additional information that could be included in data collection would be the reasons given by victims for being unable to report at the time of the forensic exam and factors that helped them to re-engage with the process by converting to a standard report. Specific quotes from victims would also be important to document, to enliven the documentation of factors affecting their decision making.
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.