Anonymous Reporting and Forensic Examinations

Anonymous Reporting and Forensic Examinations

"Anonymous Reporting and Forensic Examinations" by Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage. Alaska Justice Forum 25(1-2): 10 (Spring 2008-Summer 2008). This article describes provisions of the 2005 Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act and its application in Alaska. Under the act, states must provide victims of sexual assault with access to forensic medical examinations by a trained examiner free of charge (or with full reimbursement), regardless of whether victims decide to cooperate with law enforcement.

The 2005 Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act specifies that states may no longer “require a victim of sexual assault to participate in the criminal justice system or cooperate with law enforcement in order to be provided with a forensic medical exam, reimbursed for charges incurred on account of such an exam, or both.” This reauthorization now specifies that states must provide access to forensic medical examinations by a trained examiner free of charge (or with full reimbursement), regardless of whether victims decide to cooperate with law enforcement. In Alaska, a “trained examiner” is defined as a Registered Nurse (RN), Nurse Practitioner (NP), Physician Assistant (PA), or medical doctor (MD) who has completed a 40-hour training on sexual assault. The training should meet the education guidelines established by the National Training Standards for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiners (U.S. Department of Justice, 2006) and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Education Guidelines (International Association of Forensic Nurses, 2008). The SART/SANE training offered in Alaska meets these national training standards and education guidelines.

Failure to comply with this reauthorization by January 5, 2009, would cause Alaska to be ineligible for STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grants Program funds. In 2007, the Alaska Department of Public Safety Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault received $5,678,912 from this program—36 percent of the total grant funding received by the state in 2007 from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

In an effort to maintain vital OVW funding and to strengthen the justice system’s response to victims of sexual assault, the State of Alaska is considering implementing an anonymous reporting system for adult victims of sexual assault by January 2009. This new system would allow victims to receive a forensic medical exam without reporting the incident to police. The OVW certification does not require that states offer anonymous reporting. It only requires that victims of sexual assault be able to obtain a no-cost forensic sexual assault exam, even if they choose not to report the crime to police or otherwise cooperate with the criminal justice system or law enforcement.

This reauthorization was designed to maximize access to forensic medical examinations for victims without initially requiring them to cooperate with law enforcement. An anonymous reporting system would allow victims time to decide whether they wish to report their victimizations, while ensuring that emergency medical care is still provided in a timely manner and that forensic evidence is collected while it is still available.

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