The medical forensic sexual assault examination is not a stage of the criminal justice system but can facilitate the criminal justice process if the victim decides to report and proceed in that system. Although the examination title includes the word “forensic,” this is first and foremost a hospital or clinic-based medical examination focused on the patient’s physical and mental health and safety needs. The examination integrates forensic evidence collection because combining these steps is best practice from the viewpoint of patient-centered care. These examinations are long, highly detailed, and intrusive, so subjecting a victim to two separate examinations would be unduly harsh. Advocates have an important supporting role in these examinations, from helping victims decide whether to undergo the examination to managing their expectations about what forensic evidence can “prove” in court.
- Explains the purposes and components of a medical forensic sexual assault examination;
- Explains how these examinations become evidence in a criminal case and the limitations of these examinations as evidence; and
- Prepares victim advocates to address some of the difficulties their clients may face during the examination and in the subsequent uses of its findings.1
1. This module is adapted from the National Judicial Education Program’s online curriculum, Medical Forensic Sexual Assault Examinations: What Are They, and What Can They Tell the Courts? and Lynn Hecht Schafran, Medical Forensic Sexual Assault Examinations: What Are They, and What Can They Tell the Courts?, The Judges’ Journal, Summer 2015 at 16.