Best Practices Guidelines for Working with Victims of Sexual Assault
Andrea SundbergDorene Whitworth
2005 Violence Against Women ActState lawNRS 449.244NRS 217.310
Purpose for Guidelines
Do your current practices fit within the VAWA guidelines?Will you need to make changes?Will you need to include new disciplines?
What does this mean for your community?
What resources are available?Where does the victim receive services?Are hospital personnel aware of VAWA mandates?Does LE work closely with victim services agency?Are LE personnel trained in child interviewing?
How does the system work in your community?
Law enforcement response, 911 call, walk inSchool CounselorAge of the victim may dictate responseVictim Services ProgramHospitalHotline CallSocial services, welfare office
Where might the victim enter the system?
Safety FirstDoes the victim need medical attentionIs there an ongoing threat from perpetratorDo mandated reporting law apply?
What is the appropriate response?
Decide who is most appropriate to community with the adult victimSafety planningDiscuss whether or not to have a forensic examDiscuss reporting options: whether to file immediately or delay reportingProvide referrals or other services within the community
Communicating with the Victim
Goal is to seek the truthLocation of interview is importantChild centered (use age-appropriate words)Take time to build a rapport with the childUse non-judgmental questions
Interviewing the Child Victim
Use caution to avoid influencing memoryObserve cultural and developmental differencesReuniting the victim with the non-offending parent or guardian
Interviewing the Child Victim
Explain the purpose of the exam, e.g. evidence collection, time sensitivity, etcDoes the victim want the exam?Victim should be notified that they can terminate the exam at any time.Victim will incur no cost for the exam.Explain the benefits to collecting evidence now – preserve options.
Crime scenes may be investigated for before evidence is lostWitnesses may be located and interviewedForensic evidence can be processedVictim can access treatment and counseling under NRS 217.310Can be empowering for some victims
Police Report – Benefits to Reporting
Fear of further danger to self, family or othersCultural beliefsFinancial dependence on perpetratorInvestigation may reveal illegal activity by victim, e.g. underage drinking, prostitution, immigration status, etc.Difficulty facing perpetrator
Police Report – Cons to Reporting Immediately
Can access forensic exam and may access treatment and counseling while working to overcome traumaGives time for victim of address safety concerns and financial dependenceEvidence has been collected for potential prosecution
Delayed Reporting – Benefits
Thorough investigation can be difficult, witnesses become unavailable, memories fadeMay affect the perceptions and responses of prosecutors and jurorsMay influence the prosecutor’s ability to obtain a conviction
Delayed Reporting - Ramifications
No Law Enforcement InvolvementLaw Enforcement – Storage OnlyLaw Enforcement – Anonymous/Blind Report
Types of “Reporting”
Victim receives an exam/evidence is collectedMedical provider is responsible for storing evidenceMedical provider contacts victim assistance organization, if one is available, or coordinates for other non-medical services as needed.
No Law Enforcement Involvement
Potential harm in promising an option that is not realIf LE is unwilling to truly accept a delayed report, this is not a real option for victimsIf victim reports later, problems may arise in transferring evidence and initiating the investigation
No Law Enforcement - Concerns
How long will evidence be stored? How secured?How will chain of custody be documented?How will evidence be linked if victim decides to report?When will kits be destroyed? Will victims be notified?Does payment of exam costs require victim identification?
No Law Enforcement - Logistics
Forensic exam is available to victim regardless of whether they reportExaminer obtains incident number from law enforcementLaw enforcement is contacted when evidence is available for pickupLaw enforcement is responsible for storageHow long will evidence be held?Will victim be contacted prior to destruction of evidence?
Law Enforcement – Storage Only
Requires multi-disciplinary collaboration to design and implement protocols that work effectivelyMay increase LE involvement making it more likely that an investigation will take place if the victim does convert to a standard report
LE Storage Only – Rationale &Conerns
Report is made to law enforcementVictim provides as much or as little information about the incident but no identifying information for either victim or suspect.Evidence is stored by law enforcement
Allows victims to “try out” reporting to police, taking the CJS process “one step at a time”Avoids presenting victims with an “all or nothing” opening of reportingAllows LE to document information during initial response, including victim response and demeanorAvoids “delayed report” that is often later used to undermine the victim’s credibility – this just delays the ID
Anonymous/Blind : Benefits
Offers LE an opportunity to explain their role and the process of investigation to the victim and answer questions;Creates a process for reporting that is much more in line with victim’s process of trauma, disclosure and recoveryEspecially critical for underserved victimsWhen treated with competence and compassion, victims may be more likely to convert to a standard report
Anonymous/Blind : Benefits
Requires multidisciplinary coordinationInvestigation initiated only after victim ID is revealedMay be investigated w/o victim’s approval if:severe injuries are inflicted,serial perpetrator is suspected,case is considered high profileintimate partner violence
Anonymous/Blind : Implementation
Not the same as a third-party reportVictim is involved just not identified
Conflicting practices across the statePerception that law enforcement is “shut out”Perception that advocates discourage victims from reportingFear that victim will receive different information depending on access pointFear that large numbers of victims will come forward and costs will skyrocket
Delayed Reporting : Challenges
Clarify role of community-based advocateEnact community-wide protocols for responseProvide cross-training for first respondersPublic education campaigns
Delayed Reporting : Overcoming Challenges
Mandatory Reporting in NevadaNRS 202.882Statutory age referenced: 12 years or youngerReport must be made within 24 hours of knowledgeA minor under the age of 16 is exempt from the mandatory reporting lawsVAWA does not apply to child victims of sexual assault
Mandated Report : Child Victims
Discussion with a teacher or school counselorRevelation to an advocate after school presentationInquiring questions posed to a doctor, CPS worker, etc.Err on the side of caution –follow mandated reporting laws.
Types of Disclosures
The victims name;The perpetrator’s name;The location of the incident;Any facts which support reporting person’s belief that an assault occurred.
What must be provided?
Does the victim have injuries that need immediate medical attention?Does the victim want the forensic exam?Does the victim want anyone present, e.g. advocate, family, friend, etc.How much time has elapsed since the incident?
Forensic Exam Procedure
Although performed by a medical professional, a forensic exam is not a medical procedure;A forensic exam is an evidence collecting procedure;The forensic examiner is fulfilling a criminal justice role during the exam;Independent advocacy is critical for the victim during the exam.
Role of the Forensic Examiner
How much does a forensic exam cost?In Nevada the cost ranges from $250 to $3500Cost is impacted by what is included in the examWhat lab work should be included?Should testing be done for STD’s at time of exam?
Cost/Payment for Forensic Exam
What agency is the designated payment source for forensic exams?Are charges handled differently for those victims who have chosen to delay a report?Is the victim’s insurance ever billed?Is payment ever declined? Reason?
How are Payments Handled?
Forensic exam cost should not exceed $1500This is inclusive of examiner fees, facility costs, lab work and any prophylactic treatment deemed necessary;This does not include emergency medical care necessary to treat injuries sustained as a result of the assault.
BP Recommendations : Exam
Nevada crime labs determine what is to be collected;Rape kits provide for evidence to be documented and securedMaintaining chain of custody of the evidence is critical to the prosecution of the crime;Medical facility must have the means to secure evidence until law enforcement can retrieve the evidence;Law enforcement should retrieve evidence in reported cases within 7 days.
Chain of Custody of Evidence
Who is responsible for storage of kits?How long will they be stored in cases where a report is not immediately filed?Recommendation in Best Practices Guidelines: 90 days
Storage of Rape Kits
Lack of Compliance jeopardizes funding:STOP Violence Against Women Grant ProgramByrne Law Enforcement Grant ProgramApplies to all jurisdictions not just those receiving fundingHow might this impact futuresubgrants
Why is this Important?
Hold multi-disciplinary stakeholders meeting within your community;Complete Self-Assessment Tool;Developing VAWA Compliant policies at all agencies;Ensure your jurisdiction is not jeopardizing funding to victims in our state.
Where do we go from here?
Andrea SundbergExecutive DirectorNevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence(702) [email protected]
Dorene WhitworthConsultantNevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence(775) 721-4691
THANK YOU !