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SATI e-News: February 26, 2003

  

 
In This Issue:
      
    
     
 
  OVW Convenes Focus Groups on Standardization of Rape Exams
     
 

The U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (formerly the Violence Against Women Office) convened two focus groups within the past year to evaluate existing standards of training, practice and payment of sexual assault forensic examinations.
 
In the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 (VAWA 2000) (Public Law 106-386, section 1405), Congress required the Attorney General to evaluate existing standards of training and practice for licensed health care professionals performing sexual assault forensic examinations and develop a national recommended standard for training. In addition, the Attorney General is required to recommend sexual assault forensic examination training for all health care students. Congress also tasked the Attorney General to develop a recommended national protocol for forensic exams and establish a mechanism for its nationwide dissemination. The goal of the focus groups was to gather input from relevant disciplines toward the creation of a "working draft" of the protocol, which will be the basis for further input and discussion.
 
Joanne Archambault, President of Sexual Assault Training and Investigations (SATI), welcomed the discussion. “As I travel around the country, it is obvious that guidance is needed in this area. Practices vary widely and protocols are sometimes nonexistent,” said Archambault (see more in Promising Practices article).
 
The two focus groups included representatives from the criminal justice (police, prosecutors, and forensic scientists), medical (doctors and nurses), and victim services professions. Kellie Greene, a rape survivor and the Executive Director of SOAR (Speaking Out About Rape), was among the focus group participants.
 
According to Greene, “The [focus group] communication has been open and extensive, and many excellent ideas have been shared. Services are truly better where they have good protocols in place, and it is clear that less-equipped facilities should strive to reach this level.” But Greene noted, “there are many hurdles to be overcome in terms of funding, personnel, human and financial resources so these places [with less stringent standards] can get up to speed with the rest of the country.”
 
Greene also said many of the focus group participants come from places that already have best practices in place. She believes it is important to get more input from localities that have limited resources and are struggling to establish procedures for forensic examinations and analysis of the forensic evidence collected. “Best practices are in the minority,” Greene stated. “The majority [of the country] has very basic standards and they are the ones that will be most impacted by any change.” Overall, Greene is encouraged that a dialogue on this issue is taking place, and believes it is a significant and positive step forward.
 
While supporting the idea of a national standard for forensic exams, some sex crimes professionals are concerned that it could be used as a tactic by the defense. If a particular case does not follow the national protocol for forensic evidence collection, a defense attorney can call the evidence into question.
 
A date has not yet been determined for the release of the OVW "working document", but SATI e-News will be following this story closely and providing updates.

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  Congress Reaffirms Commitment to Clery Act on Campus Crime Reporting, But Changes Likely
     
  A few short weeks after the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) appealed to Congress to “simplify or eliminate” the Jeanne Clery Act, Congress appropriated $750,000 for the U.S. Department of Education to produce and disseminate a Jeanne Clery Act compliance handbook to all Title IV institutions that are eligible for funding.
 
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), one of the Clery Act’s original sponsors, introduced the provision, which was included in the omnibus appropriations package passed by both houses of Congress mid-February.
 
The NAICU later clarified in a letter to Congress that they "have never, and are not now, calling for this law to be weakened or eliminated." "We are asking that its reporting provisions be examined to make campus crime information more useful to students and their families," wrote David Warren the President of NAICU. An examination of some of the Clery Act's provisions remains likely.
 
Originally known as the “Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990", the Clery Act requires institutions of postsecondary education that participate in federal student aid programs to report campus crime statistics to their students, and the federal government. It is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education.
 
Over a decade later, the definition of crime still varies widely from campus to campus. For instance, on the campus of Mount St. Mary's College and Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, unless a weapon is involved or an ambulance is called, the college's security department does not notify law enforcement, according to the school's Public Safety Director, Tom Kiniry. "It's the victim's responsibility and it's completely up to her," Kiniry said. "In some cases, she doesn't even want us to know." Three incidents of sex offenses went unreported to the county in 2001, according to gazette.net.
 
The Clery Act disclosure requirement has generated significant controversy over the past decade. Many believed that colleges were underreporting crime data. Those institutions that did comply felt they were being unfairly penalized, because incoming freshmen and parents perceived that their schools were more dangerous, as compared to schools that fudged their numbers.
 
A National Institute of Justice-funded study confirmed the suspicions of underreporting. The report, “Campus Sexual Assault: How America’s Institutions Respond,” found that only 36.5 percent of the nation's colleges and universities comply with the Clery Act. The study includes information collected from 2,438 colleges and universities in the United States and Puerto Rico.
 
According to S. Daniel Carter of the non-profit watchdog organization Security On Campus, Inc., the Clery Act handbook “will ensure that all schools have clear instructions on exactly how to report their campus crime, and will increase student safety. Schools will know exactly what the law requires of them, and dishonest schools will no longer be able to claim they were confused when they are caught underreporting their campus crime,” Carter said.
 
The "Clery Act" is named in memory of 19 year-old Lehigh University freshman Jeanne Ann Clery who was raped and murdered while asleep in her residence hall room on April 5, 1986. Jeanne's parents, Connie and Howard, discovered that students hadn't been told about 38 violent crimes on the Lehigh campus in the three years before her murder.
 
Sources:

NAICU proposal, January 2003.

NAICU Statement of Support for the Jeanne Clery Act, February 7, 2003.
 
“Colleges don’t report sex assault stats,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, August 2002.
 
“Mount St. Mary’s does not report most crimes,” gazette.net, December 19, 2002.
 
For more information about the Jeanne Clery Act: http://www.securityoncampus.org/schools/cleryact/index.html
 
“Campus Sexual Assault: How America’s Institutions of Higher Education Respond”, National Institute of Justice, August 2002

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  Prosecutor Seeks to Penalize Inmates Requesting Frivolous Post Conviction DNA Testing
      
  After the DNA tests of two convicted rapists confirmed their guilt last month, St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and circuit attorney Jennifer Joyce decided it was time to push back. According to the Los Angeles Times, Joyce is drafting legislation--thought to be the first in the nation—which attempts to deter “frivolous” requests for post conviction DNA testing.
 
Joyce’s staff spent scores of hours and thousands of dollars on those tests, and victims were distraught to learn that their traumas were being aired again. One rape victim became suicidal and then vanished; her family has not heard from her for months, according to the LA Times.
 
Joyce’s proposal would require inmates to pay for the analysis unless they are exonerated (the DNA testing costs up to $2,500). In addition, she would like to see requests that confirm guilt serve as a black mark for the inmate’s probation and parole boards. These individuals would also be subject to an existing statute barring frivolous lawsuits, which adds 60 days to a sentence.
 
St. Louis freed one convicted rapist last summer after DNA exonerated him, but tests performed on two other rapists last year and in 2001 came back positive. The frustration experienced in St. Louis is felt elsewhere across the nation. According to the Innocence Project, 60% of the inmates it represents prove to be guilty when the DNA comes back, even though the organization closely screens all requests before accepting a case.
 
The requests for post-DNA conviction testing are competing for limited resources in an already overburdened system. A U.S. Department of Justice survey found that 81% of crime labs have fallen well behind in their work. The backlog includes more than 16,000 criminal cases, which would take about eight months to work through assuming not a single new test request came in.
 
Although she does not yet have the weight of a law behind her, Joyce is refusing to test DNA from two other old sexual assaults, on the basis that the analysis would not prove guilt or innocence, given the circumstances of the cases. Lawyers for the inmates involved are seeking to charge Joyce with contempt of court for withholding the biological evidence.
 
Sources:
 

“DNA tests for inmates debated,” Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2003.
 
“DNA test points to man jailed for rape, Toronto Star, January 12, 2003.

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  Arkansas Law Allows Crime Lab Analysts To Testify Via Television
     
  In an attempt to help alleviate its extensive forensic backlog, Arkansas passed a law in 2001 to allow crime lab analysts to testify via television from the Crime Lab in Little Rock. The system allows the lab analysts to remain in Little Rock until their testimony is needed, at which time they go before the camera, testify and return to work, all within a matter of minutes.
 
Jim Clark, the Arkansas Crime Lab Director, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that testifying at court hearings around the state is one of the largest demands on his staff. Remote testimony can save at least a day of the analyst’s time spent traveling to and from the trial venue.
 
But only one county in the state is taking advantage of the technology, and so it has yet to have a significant impact on the backlog of cases. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials say the trail is growing cold on many of their cases. A police detective from the Fort Smith Police Department told the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette that their biggest problem is getting drug tests back from the Little Rock Crime Lab (they process fingerprint evidence in-house). Due to a strained state budget, it is unlikely that more financial resources will be allocated to forensics.
 
The Arkansas crime lab employs 105 staff, which handled 24,074 cases in 2001—approximately 1,000 more cases than a decade ago. The lab serves 500-600 law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
 
Source:
 

“Forensic Backlog at Crime Lab Letting Trails Go Cold, Investigators Say,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 30, 2003.

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  Montana Case Review Prompts Questions About Discrepancies in Forensic Evaluation Nationwide
     
  A recent National Public Radio (NPR) segment highlighted the exoneration of several inmates due to faulty forensic evaluation during the initial trial. The focus of the report was the case in Montana where faulty hair analysis kept an innocent man in prison for 15 years. The discovery led to a review of dozens of other cases in which Arnold Melnikoff, the State’s former Crime Lab Director and Analyst in this case, participated (for details, see story in the January 2003 issue of SATI e-News.
 
Wendy Kaufman, the NPR reporter, speculated, “But just how good are the labs and the scientists who work in them? There are no mandatory proficiency exams, no mandatory certification requirements and no standardized curriculum for forensic scientists. Only the state of New York requires that labs be accredited, and only New York has a regulatory agency responsible for setting standards and ensuring compliance. Of the 600 or so forensic labs in the country, just 240 have been accredited by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors.”
 
Kaufman said that Frank Fitzpatrick of the American Society of Crime Lab Directors told her that lab directors don’t want to see their scientists and their labs under fire in the courtroom. They don’t want to have to explain why their lab isn’t accredited, so more and more of them are aggressively trying to beef up their training and quality assurance programs. But getting the funds to do that isn’t easy, Fitzpatrick told Kaufman.
 
Also participating in the NPR segment were Jimmy Ray Bromgard, the Montana man who was freed last month, Peter Neufeld, an attorney with the Innocence Project, Rocky Treppiedi, lawyer for Arnold Melnikoff and Mike McGrath, Montana Attorney General. According to McGrath, “We have some old cases that we’ve been asked to look at, and we’ve done that. We’re also doing a review of other cases and trying to determine how many times he testified, and then, if he did testify, what his testimony was. And that’s a fairly tedious process.”
 
Source:
 
“Analysis: Discrepancies in forensic evidence and the impact on trial,” National Public Radio (NPR), January 26, 2003.

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  From Around The Country: OR, KY, AL, CA, TX, OH, NE, NY, PA, LA, NJ
     
  The following news summaries in this section are reprinted with permission from the DNA Legislation & News, published by Smith Alling Lane, a government affairs firm that provides nationwide governmental affairs services to Applied Biosystems: http://www.dnaresource.com. (Note: Headlines added.)
 

Oregon Layoffs Hit Troopers, Lab Techs
 
In Oregon, the first round of layoffs, due to budget cuts, have hit the state patrol and crime lab. Oregon State Police will lose 286 positions, including almost 100 scientists and technicians in crime laboratories. In Portland, the 11-member staff at the state DNA lab has been cut to four. They no longer will enter DNA data from convicts into national database that last year matched offenders to 143 crimes. Some troopers may be rehired if the Legislature quickly approves a new state-police budget. But the technicians likely will end up moving to other states where demand for their skills is high, and many may be reluctant to return.
 
Source:
 
“Oregon lays off troopers, lab techs,” The Seattle Times, February 2, 2003.
 
Kentucky Crime Lab Staggers Under Load of Cases

 
The Kentucky state crime lab receives about 40,000 new cases a year, about half of which have been drug identification cases. The labs still have 9,000 overall cases left over from 2002. The 2002 General Assembly approved the hiring of 26 new employees over two years, but provided just $500,000 to hire 11 workers before last year’s job freeze. Some prosecutors have had cases dismissed due to backlogged crime lab analysis.
 
Source:
 
“Crime Lab staggers under load of cases,” Lexington Herald-Leader, February 9, 2003.
 
Running in Place at Alabama Crime Labs
 

In Alabama, with a backlog of about 2,000 DNA cases, and a struggle for any new funds and staff, it’s not unusual for forensics work in an Alabama murder case to take about two years. The backlogs are steep in other sections, too, but where the lab is hurting most is in DNA, according to the new Chief. Things got so bad last year, then-Gov. Don Siegelman released a one-time $1 million grant from his emergency fund to augment the legislative allocation and prevent the department from having to cut some services. And just recently, U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), announced a one-time $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which is expected to further ease the crunch.
 
Source:
 

“Running in place: Funds, staff lacking at state crime labs,” The Associated Press State & Local Wire, January 26, 2003.
 
Westerfield Conviction Cost $270,000
 
Prosecutors in San Diego spent nearly $270,000 convicting David Westerfield of kidnapping and killing 7-year-old Danielle van Dam—which does not include the salaries of the prosecutors and district attorney’s investigators involved in the case, or the money spent by police and other law enforcement agencies that investigated the girl’s abduction. The biggest expense for prosecutors was DNA analysis, with the office spending $152,712.
 
Source:
 
“Westerfield conviction cost $270,000,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 7, 2003.
 
Texas May Rein in Forensic Labs
 
A bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would create a Forensic Science Review Committee within the Department of Public Safety to regulate and oversee the activities of the forensic laboratories in the state.
 
Source:
 
Texas HB (House Bill) 353
 
Houston Suspends DNA Testing After FBI Cites Lab for Deficiencies;
DNA Evidence To Be Retested

 
An audit of the Houston, Texas crime laboratory found that the lab was not in compliance with FBI standards for DNA analysis. The lab has since suspended DNA testing. The audit, conducted by crime lab professionals, also said lab workers weren’t properly trained and found deficiencies in interpreting and documenting DNA test results. DNA testing at the lab was halted after the department learned of the audit December 13th. Private labs will do the retesting.
 
In a related story, the 1999 rape conviction of a 16 year-old boy, which relied primarily on DNA evidence, has been called into question because samples were processed at the Houston Police Department crime lab. Forensic scientists say the evidence against the inmate was handled so poorly that the lab more likely than not came up with incorrect results. This case is one of hundreds under review after an audit by outside experts uncovered widespread deficiencies at the lab, where DNA testing has been temporarily suspended.
 
Sources:
 
“DNA evidence to be retested after deficiencies found in Houston police crime lab,” The Associated Press, January 18, 2003.
 
“Experts review case of convicted rapist,” The Houston Chronicle, February 1, 2003.
 
Suspect Apprehended in OSU Rapes
 
In Ohio, a man suspected of raping at least six Ohio State University students was named in a 15-count indictment. Police said he was a strong suspect in at least 13 rapes in the Columbus area since May. During the arraignment, the lead investigator in the case said the suspect has been linked to one of the incidents through DNA evidence taken from saliva left at the scene of the assault. He previously served seven years in prison after being convicted of attempted rape in Cuyahoga County.
 
Source:
 
“Suspect in Ohio State U. area rape case indicted,” University Wire, January 27, 2003.
 
Nebraska Court Hears First Challenge Under State’s Post Conviction DNA Law
 
The Nebraska Supreme Court will hear what is believed to be the first challenge to a new law requiring the state to perform post conviction DNA tests. The state’s DNA-testing law requires prosecutors to preserve DNA evidence and give notice if they plan to discard it. It also allows the state to pay for DNA testing if the person is indigent. The court might use this case to clarify the parameters for when DNA testing should be granted. The inmate is asking to have DNA tests performed on a cigarette butt, which allegedly link him to the scene of the crime. The prosecution has denied requests for additional testing saying that such testing “would not and could not” determine if he was innocent.
 
Source:
 

“Court to hear first challenge under Nebraska’s DNA-testing law,” The Associated Press State & Local Wire, February 4, 2003.
 
Convicts Who Plead Guilty Can Claim Innocence
 

In a case of first impression, a Texas Criminal Court of Appeals ruled 5-4 that there is nothing explicit in its 1996 ruling in Ex Parte Elizondo that prohibits or limits a court’s analysis of an actual innocence claim to jury or bench trials. The CCA held in Elizondo that a “bare innocence” claim is within a court’s jurisdiction on a habeas corpus writ application, meaning that a defendant’s guilty plea does not preclude him from claiming in a post-conviction writ application that new evidence (such as DNA) establishes his innocence. Prosecutors contend that the ruling will lead to a wave of habeas application from convicts who pleaded guilty but now claim they have new evidence of their innocence.
 
Source:
 

“Convicts who pleaded guilty can claim innocence,” Texas Lawyer, December 30, 2002.
 
Governor’s Proposed Budget Includes Fees for NY Sex Offenders
 
The New York Governor’s proposed budget includes new fees of up to $50 for sex offenders to enter the DNA databank and the state’s sex offender registry ($800,000).
 
Source:
 
“Fee impositions or increases proposed in 2003-04 Executive Budget,” The Associated Press State & Local Wire, January 29, 2003.
 
DA Faults Prosecutor for Filing Sexual Assault Charges Too Early
 

 After an internal review, a California District Attorney concluded that a prosecutor should have waited for the results of lab tests and pushed police for better evidence before filing charges in two sex cases that were dismissed after DNA tests cleared both suspect. Santa Clara County District Attorney George Kennedy said that former ADA Dave Davies should not have authorized charges against a San Jose man accused of trying to kill and sexually assault his mother and a Palo Alto preschool teacher.
 
Source:
 

“DA faults prosecutor for filing sex charges,” San Jose Mercury News, February 11, 2003
 
DNA Evidence Clears Rape Suspect Who Hanged Himself in Jail
 
In Pennsylvania, DNA evidence posthumously cleared a rape suspect who killed himself in a police holding cell. The suspect had used his shirt to hang himself the same day he was arrested for the rape of an 18-year-old woman who identified the man as her attacker. Recently returned tests show his DNA did not match the semen sample collected from the victim.
 
Source:
 

“DNA evidence clears rape suspect who hanged himself in jail,” The Associated Press, January 9, 2003.
 
Rape Kits and Other Evidence Goes Missing in New Orleans
 
The New Orleans Police Department is reviewing the destruction of evidence from old cases, some dating back 10 years or more. Potentially hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individual items were destroyed, sold or discovered missing during a major clean-up of the Central Evidence and Property Room about two years ago. The effort began as a routine purge of evidence that was no longer needed, but it expanded into a massive shelf-clearing in which items allegedly were destroyed after being listed in an inventory or moved to smaller containers. The missing evidence includes rape kits.
 
“Evidence missing at NOPD storage,” The Times-Picayune, February 4, 2003.
 
Orchid Cellmark Launches Rapid Forensic DNA Analysis Service
 
Orchid Cellmark (www.orchidcellmark.com) announced the launch of a new “DNA Express Service” for local law enforcement agencies. The new service delivers forensic DNA results for “no-suspect” and other criminal cases within five business days, compared to the standard average turn-around time of four to five weeks for routine casework.
 
Source:
 

Orchid Cellmark press release, January 15, 2003.
 
DNA Plan Could Hit Probation Staff Hard
 
The New York Governor’s proposal to expand the state’s DNA database to include all convicted criminals instead of just violent felons could inundate an already overburdened county probation department, its director said. The Broome County Probation Department processed about 200 DNA tests last year for defendants either sentenced to probation or given a conditional discharge on charges classified as “violent.” Under Pataki’s proposal, that number would likely increase by hundreds and be the responsibility of a department that lost five probation officers to retirement last fall.
 
Source:
 

“State Of The State—DNA plan could hit probation staff hard,” Press & Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), January 9, 2003.
 
Former Parole Officer Receives Probation
 
In New Jersey, a 38 year-old parole officer, William Ryniak, was sentenced to three years probation for criminal sexual contact with a woman parolee he was supervising. The man pleaded guilty to the charges, saying he engaged in the sex act during a visit to the woman’s home in March 2001. The victim saved a semen-stained washcloth, and the DNA was traced back to the suspect. He was fired shortly after the charges were filed, and the plea bans him from public employment.
 
Source:
 

“Former parole officer receives probation,” The Record (Bergen County, NJ), January 25, 2003.
 
Pennsylvania Legislation Would Provide Minimum Requirements for Forensic Exam
 
A bill recently introduced in the Pennsylvania state legislature would provide minimum requirements for hospitals and health care facilities, which provide emergency services to victims of sexual assault, and for a sexual assault evidence collection program.
 
Source:
 

SB (Senate Bill) 41, Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act.

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  From Across the Pond: The United Kingdom
   
  Scotland Yard Balks at Home Office Plan to Sell-Off Forensics Service
 
In England, the Home Office is proposing to privatize the Forensic Science Service (FSS) in a highly controversial move which police claim could leave them unable to afford to investigate certain crimes. The Government wants to sell over half of the FSS to a private company within the next two years, with the option of selling the entire service in the future. Although the FSS is currently government-owned it charges the police for its service, but insiders claim a lot of work is done for free because of the public sector ethos.
 
England’s DNA database averages 5,000 cold hits per month, and there is more than a 40 per cent change of DNA found at a crime scene matching a name on the database. In 2000-2001, 14,785 crimes were detected using the DNA database compared with 8,612 the previous year.
 
Meanwhile, in an effort dubbed Operation Phoenix, London police have reopened 1,544 unsolved rape cases over 16 years because improvements in forensic analysis could now link rapists to the crime. The “cold cases review,” dating back to 1987, will include DNA samples from clothes and other materials that could not be tested at the time. The review is the biggest ever undertaken by a force.
 
Sources:
 

“Police furious over forensics sell-off plans,” The Observer, January 19, 2003.
 
“Focus DNA; Could the latest science solve these murders and 1,500 rapes?” Sunday Express, February 9, 2003.
 
“Unsolved rapes face DNA review,” The Times (London), February 5, 2003.
 
“DNA conviction may herald sex crimes breakthrough,” The Northern Echo, January 25, 2003.

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  Promising Practices: Message From the Desk of the SATI Training Director: Standard Protocols for Rape Exams By Joanne Archambault, Founder and Training Director, Sexual Assault Training & Investigations
   
  I was glad to learn that the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is addressing the issue of standards and protocols for rape exams (see related e-news article). It is unfortunate that events of 9-11 delayed the process, (the first focus group was slated to happen in Chicago on September 13, 2001). This is an extensive undertaking for the OVW. The process is moving forward in a deliberate and thoughtful manner, which certainly makes sense for an important issue with such widespread implications.
 
As I travel around the country, it is obvious that such guidance is sorely needed in this area. Practices vary widely and protocols are sometimes nonexistent.
 
As an example, I recently provided training in a rural area of Texas. Officers/deputies are extremely frustrated because the County hospital had established a “Sexual Assault Response Team.” Two of the counties had advocates (these agencies referred to these system advocates as advocates but for clarity, I will refer to them as crisis interventionists) working within the Police Departments. When questioned, the crisis interventionists stated they have confidentiality. The crisis interventionists respond directly to the scene to immediately assist the victim, providing immeasurable support at the scene for the responding officers/deputies. In this case, if a forensic examination is warranted based on the type of assault and the length of time lapsed between the assault and the report, the officer transports the victim to the County Hospital. Hospital staff will only call a Rape Crisis Center advocate after the officer and victim arrive at the hospital. Because the advocates cover a very large geographical area, many hours often pass before they arrive.
 
In an attempt to practice a team approach, the officers said the forensic examiner will not begin the exam before the community based advocate arrives. At that time, although the crisis interventionist has already been working with the victim and most likely established some level of trust and rapport, the crisis interventionist is removed and replaced with the community based advocate and the exam begins. Interestingly, when questioned, the officers said that the examiner does not appear to have any special training and they do not use a colposcope. Clearly, this community has attempted to put together a Sexual Assault Response Team to provide more efficient, victim centered services. However, the officers and crisis interventionists said it is common for the exam to take 6-8 hours. The officers’ response is to take the victim to another hospital. I do not believe this is an acceptable answer. Communities must identify all the stakeholders who should be involved in appropriately responding to sexual assault. They must collaborate to put together a system that works effectively for everyone, especially the survivor. This “system” is clearly not working for anyone. Depending on your community size and resources, modifications to a traditional SART might need to be made.
 
Another example I have heard over and over again, is the frustration survivors and members of the SART experience when there is a need for an interpreter or a person to assist with some aspect of the examination. I have heard arguments that an advocate cannot interpret or hold a ruler for example, because the advocate would then become a witness. The advocate is a witness regardless, the minute he/she becomes involved in the investigation. A valid argument is that the advocate changes roles, and now becomes focused on assisting the officer or examiner, versus solely focusing on the needs of the victim. But, what if it will take hours to find another person who speaks the language of the survivor or one who can sign? Other options must be available. Perhaps, a second advocate could respond to take over the role of advocate. Or if that’s not possible, how about explaining the situation to the survivor and providing her with choices. It is clear that we have a lot of work to do before we can say that we are truly operating as a team or that collaborating goes beyond developing a protocol that looks good on paper but cannot be practiced by those working in the field.
 
I look forward to learning about the discussions and recommendations from the Office for Violence Against Women about rape exam standards and protocols. You can be sure that we will share with you the OVW’s working document, as soon as it is made available, and also let you know how to participate in the dialogue as standardization moves forward. In the meantime, there are many communities who are working hard to identify the obstacles and improve their responses to sexual assault.

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