Today, I was fortunate to join Attorney General Eric Holder, Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West, OVC Principal Deputy Director Joye Frost and OJP Acting Assistant Attorney General MaryLou Leary in honoring 12 extraordinary individuals at the Office for Victims of Crime’s National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony for demonstrating outstanding service in supporting crime victims and victim services. The ceremony also provided an opportunity to gather together and commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAM) and Denim Day. And we celebrated a long-awaited accomplishment – the release of the updated National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adult/Adolescent (SAFE Protocol, 2d.). The Attorney General’s announcement of the revised protocol is a tribute to victims of crime and to all of our partners working tirelessly on the front lines to support survivors.
In the nine years since the protocol was initially released, there have been marked improvements in the “state of the art” for forensic medical examinations. The revised edition maintains the same traditions of standardization, quality, and best practice as the first SAFE Protocol. Like the first edition, this newest version is an indispensable resource, updated with improvements to reflect current technology and practice.
“The SAFE protocol is crucial to our efforts to end sexual violence,” said Attorney General Holder. “It is our responsibility to ensure that victims feel comfortable coming forward. The SAFE Protocol helps us coordinate and improve our response when these courageous individuals do seek help from first responders including nurses, doctors, advocates, law enforcement, and prosecutors.”
The revised SAFE Protocol reflects the many important improvements that can help increase the quality of the services victims receive. There is information on populations with special needs, such as victims with limited English proficiency, victims with disabilities, American Indian and Alaska Native victims, victims in the Military, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims. The new version also provides more information on topics such as drug and alcohol facilitated sexual assault, pregnancy, confidentiality, and alternative reporting procedures. The revised version also increases the emphasis on victim-centered care and collaboration, including offering victims an informed choice about participating in the criminal justice system.
Advocates and practitioners who work with sexual assault survivors have a firsthand understanding of the importance of high-quality forensic evidence collection as specified in the SAFE Protocol. When these procedures are used, they make a difference. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) programs have been found to improve the quality of forensic evidence, improve law enforcement’s ability to collect information and to file charges, and increase the likelihood of successful prosecution. The updated SAFE Protocol is a tremendous victory for victims of sexual assault and the dedicated SAFEs, SANEs, advocates, law enforcement, and prosecutors that support victims and hold offenders accountable.
We know that SAFE and SANE programs positively impact the experience of victims. SAFEs and SANEs are specially trained to provide compassionate care for victims while collecting evidence that improves outcomes for victims, police, and prosecutors. One study found that sexual assault victims are more likely to engage in investigation and prosecution if they receive care at SANE programs.
As we recognize SAAM, OVW is honored to share this new protocol with all of you as we work together to hold offenders accountable through improved evidence collection and prosecutions. Along with our grantee, the International Association of Forensic Nurses, OVW will be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, May 21 to present additional details on the revised protocol and answer any questions about the update. You can register for the webinar here. I am pleased to share two fact sheets OVW developed highlighting the major updates in the revised SAFE Protocol. The short fact sheet provides a brief summary of the major updates and the long fact sheet has additional detail about the major updates. Download the full SAFE Protocol, 2d at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ovw/241903.pdf.