This study examined various features of States' administration of sexual assault medical forensic exams (MFEs) and determined whether States are complying with the Federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2005 in paying for MFEs regardless of whether the victim reports the sexual assault to law enforcement or cooperates with the criminal justice system in case processing.
Five themes emerged from the study's findings. First, State victim compensation funds are the usual designated source of funding for MFEs across the United States. Second, with few exceptions in the jurisdictions involved in case studies for this report, sexual assault victims can receive MFEs and have them funded by the State without having to report the alleged assault to law enforcement. Survey respondents indicated this was occurring throughout the Nation. Third, there are still barriers to a sexual assault victim's accessing a MFE, which prevents some victims from seeking medical help; this occurs most often with victims who identify as non-English speakers, immigrants, or American Indians. Fourth, most sexual assault victims who receive MFEs report the assaults to the police at the time of the exam. Of the victims who get MFEs but do not report the assault at the time of the exam, few convert their kits to reported cases at a later date. Fifth, having sufficient funds available to pay for MFEs is a major concern for many States. The study conducted national surveys of State victim compensation fund administrators, State STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors) administrators, State-level sexual assault coalitions, and local sexual assault service providers. Case studies in six selected States examined how MFE procedures were implemented locally. 21 figures, 29 references, appended questionnaire and key questions in structured interviews with various stakeholders
Date Published: April 1, 2014