Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

New Federal Rape-Examinations No Longer Have to Involve Law Enforcement

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

New Federal Rape-Examinations No Longer Have to Involve Law Enforcement

Article excerpt

New federal rape-examination requirements do not require victims to go to law enforcement, a circumstance some victims find so traumatizing they choose not to report the crime.

Under the mandate, evidence from victims who undergo the exam at a hospital can be stored for use later, should they decide to press charges.

The new procedure has been given the Jane Doe designation, because in some states the victim is not identified when the evidence is filed away.

Shannon Liew, coordinator of the YWCA Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program in Oklahoma County, said that in Oklahoma the exams are referred to as "not-reporting" rape kits.

"'Jane Doe' implies that they're anonymous, and our laws here in Oklahoma don't require that," she said.

Federal law ties continuance of funding for some programs to compliance with the new requirements.

Liew said the language in the federal law does not specifically mandate that victims be kept anonymous.

"What the language in the act says is that it is not required that victims pursue prosecution or investigation in order to receive a forensic medical exam," she said.

Liew said some states already followed similar requirements before the federal mandate came down.

"It really is kind of a victim-centered approach," she said.

Liew said Oklahoma has been on board since November of last year.

"Now victims can receive the rape exam, or the forensic medical exam, without involving law enforcement," she said.

Liew said that since November her program has conducted seven exams for victims who decided not to talk to law enforcement. She recalled one victim who chose not to be examined after finding out that law enforcement would have to be informed, and one who decided to discuss her case with law enforcement a couple of weeks after her exam.

"The bottom line is that victims can receive services without involving law enforcement, if they want to," Liew said.

Liew said the law does not tell jurisdictions how to implement the requirement, so each entity has to figure out how to do so. …

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