The Department of Justice issued new national medical guidelines yesterday revising the 2004 standard of care for victims of sexual assault. Instead of focusing on the criminal justice aspect of evidence collection during the medical exams, the emphasis now is to support the victim’s health needs — including offering female victims yemergency contraception or information on how to obtain EC. The guidelines also encourage victims to undergo forensic evidence collection, even if she does not plan to report the rape to police immediately, and stipulates how evidence should be collected and what equipment should be used to do so. As explained by The New York Times, “The guidelines emphasize that the rape victim’s physical and emotional needs should take precedence over criminal justice considerations.”
The DOJ did not just update their 2004 guidelines on rape care out of the goodness of their heart; as the Times notes, victims are more likely to cooperate with the criminal justice system when they haven’t been ‘violated again,’ so to speak, by the services they turn to for care after a sexual assault. For example, a key element of this is an update in the section about drugs and alcohol which explains that being drunk or high during an assault “should not diminish the perceived seriousness of the assault.”
Between these updated guidelines and last year’s new definition of rape approved by the FBI, it seems our criminal justice system is taking some actual baby steps towards justice for sexual assault victims.
[Image of doctor consulting with a patient from Shutterstock]
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