New Guidelines Could Help Protect Victims From Sexual Predators
Taking sexually violent predators off the street. Advocates say new guidelines could make that easier, by changing the way sexual assault victims are treated in the days following an attack.
It's a significant shift in emphasis, from the needs of law enforcement to the needs of the victim. And advocates hope it will leave all women better protected from sexual crimes.
"These guidelines are really important because it does remove barriers that victims may have for seeking this service," said Donna Dunn, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Dunn spoke about new voluntary guidelines from the federal government, issued a few days ago, on how agencies should handle rape and sexual assault victims. They urge professionals to conduct a forensic medical exam regardless of whether the victim plans to make a police report.
"Two weeks down the road, if the victims says, 'You know, I think I'd like to talk to police about it,' the wonderful thing is that if there was evidence, it's been collected," Dunn said.
The guidelines also urge more physical and psychological support for victims, instead of making prosecution the top priority.
They recommend, "performing sexual assault forensic exams in a sensitive, dignified, and victim-centered manner," and state that, "having a positive experience with the criminal justice and health care systems can contribute greatly to their overall healing."
"Getting a good response from the medical provider that says, 'We care about you. We're going to collect this evidence. You can decide later what to do,'" Dunn said.
The hope is that with less pressure, and more protection, more victims will feel safe enough to contact police.
"These practices are really a good step in the direction to make it easier perhaps to make that decision, so ultimately, we can hold offenders accountable," Dunn said.
For the first time, the federal government is also recommending that rape victims be offered emergency contraception.