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This presentation explores strategies to increase reporting options for sexual assault victims. These approaches are grounded in a victim-centered and trauma-informed philosophy, encapsulated in the concepts of one step at a time and opening doors.
The efficacy of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) forensic compliance provisions have not been systematically evaluated since the inception of the laws in 2005 and 2013. Data on how forensic compliance is being implemented, why survivors are choosing certain reporting options, and what actually happens to cases when a survivor decides at a later time to engage with a law enforcement investigation is a largely unknown landscape.
Sexual assault victims can obtain a medical forensic exam without being faced with an immediate decision about participating in the law enforcement investigation and any criminal prosecution. The goal is to get victims the health care they need – as well as collecting and documenting evidence while it is available – without presenting victims with a decision about criminal participation that is framed as “all or nothing” and “now or never.” If victims are allowed to get support and take the time they need, the hope is that they will ultimately “convert” and decide they are able to fully participate in the process.
Professionals across the country are struggling to implement a community response system that is compliant with the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. § 3796gg-4(d) (typically referred to as “VAWA 2005”). With resources provided by a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), we can help to achieve this goal in your community.