Justice Department Issues New Protocol on Sex Assault Forensics


Techniques for analyzing evidence in rape cases have evolved over the last decade, as has the understanding of the psychological effects of sexual assault. How health practitioners, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and others respond after a rape still varies widely, says the New York Times. Yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department issued new national guidelines for forensic medical examinations in cases of sexual assault. The recommendations, revised from a 2004 version, are aimed at establishing voluntary standards for care when rape victims seek help at hospitals or other medical facilities. The standards will be mandatory for practitioners working in federal prisons or in the military. The guidelines emphasize that the rape victim's physical and emotional needs should take precedence over criminal justice considerations. The 2004 guidelines “took a more prosecutorial tone,” said Bea Hanson, acting director of the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women, which developed the protocol, placing more stress on the need for victims to collaborate with criminal justice authorities.

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