Department of Justice Advocates for Rape Victims With New Guidelines

The Department of Justice has issued new national guidelines for medical exams and standards of care for rape victims, emphasizing that the victim's "physical and emotional needs should take precedence over criminal justice considerations."

The guidelines—issued this week—also recommend that victims be offered emergency contraception, or information on how to immediately obtain it and advises that "voluntary drug and or alcohol use should not diminish the perceived seriousness of the assault."

However, while the guidelines are to be mandatory standards of practice in federal prisons and the military, they're considered voluntary in the rest of the country. As it stands, there is no established, uniform protocol that health care professionals, police, and prosecutors respond to sexual assault, and methods vary across the U.S.

These new guidelines are a revision from those issued by the DOJ in 2004, which had highlighted an importance of victims to cooperate with authorities.

According to Bea Hanson, acting director of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, "Research shows that once victims get support, they’re more likely to cooperate with the criminal justice system."

New Medical Exam Policy for Sexual Assault Cases [NYT]

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