The Rape Victim: A Project of the Committee on Women of the American Psychiatric Association ...

By Elaine Hilberman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
FOUR
THE RAPE VICTIM IN THE HOSPITAL

This monograph has already addressed itself to the issue of professional attitudes about rape, and the ways in which attitudes affect behavior, whether in the emergency room or the courtroom. The purpose of this section is to describe some of the specific problems inherent in the hospital treatment of the victim and to provide a set of guidelines which can be utilized in instituting crisis programs for victims of sexual assault in a hospital setting.

The Report of the District of Columbia Task Force on Rape 1 describes many of the problems which currently prevail in hospital treatment of victims. They suggest that "many doctors do not want to examine a rape victim because they do not wish to be called to testify. Some doctors who examine victims falsify medical reports for court, minimizing or neglecting entirely signs of trauma in an attempt to avoid being called in to testify." Further, physicians usually have had no special training in the treatment of the physical and emotional trauma resulting from the rape or in the methods of evidence collection. Hospital policies vary widely, with examinations performed by gynecologists in some institutions, while at others the lowest ranking physician without training in gynecology does the examination. Medical treatment is often inadequate and psychological treatment usually nonexistent. Victims have been known to wait for up to five hours before receiving medical attention, which is often brusque and impersonal. Issues concerning pregnancy and venereal disease may not be dealt with at all. There may be no formal procedure for collection of evidence, and even when such procedure exists, it may be by-passed. Issues of confidentiality become critical either because hospital policy dictates that parents give consent before a minor is treated or because some hospitals automatically call the police whether a victim wishes to

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