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Responsive Planning - Issues - Evidence protocol and forensic medical examinations

Evidence protocol and forensic medical examinations

Standard 115.21/115.121/115.221/115.321 broadly requires agencies to follow a uniform evidence protocol adapted from the DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women publication, “A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents – Second Edition,” or another similarly comprehensive and authoritative protocol developed after 2011. Within that broad mandate, the standard contains two of the PREA standards’ specific requirements for ensuring a victim-centered response to an incident of sexual abuse at a correctional facility:

  1. Victim access to forensic medical exams, without financial cost, where evidentiarily or medically appropriate; and
  2. Victim access to rape crisis advocates.

Whether conducted onsite or at a medical facility, the standard instructs correctional facilities to use a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) or Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) to perform exams where possible. Facilities in areas where no SANE or SAFE is available must document efforts to find SANEs or SAFEs and then provide other qualified medical professionals for the exams. The standard further requires facilities to use a developmentally appropriate protocol for youth. Since no national protocol for pediatric sexual assault exists, contact your local sexual assault or domestic violence coalitions to inquire about your state’s protocol. To find state-level coalitions, visit this website.

Recognizing the unique role of rape crisis center advocates in providing support, crisis intervention, information, and referrals to victims throughout the forensic medical exam process and ensuing investigation(s), Standard 115.21/115.221/115.321 requires facilities to attempt to secure advocacy services from rape crisis centers for victims of sexual abuse in confinement. For lockups, the requirement is slightly different. Standard 115.121 states that if a detainee is sent to an outside hospital for a forensic medical exam and that hospital offers victim advocacy services, the detainee must be permitted to use those services to the extent available, consistent with security needs.

Prisons, jails, community confinement facilities, and juvenile facilities in rural or other areas without rape crisis centers are required to document their efforts to locate advocacy services and are given the option of substituting a qualified staff member from a community-based organization or a qualified agency staff member for a rape crisis advocate. If a facility uses a qualified staff member from a community-based social services organization or agency staff, it must screen that person for appropriateness and ensure that he or she receives education concerning sexual abuse issues and forensic exams.