Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women Announces National Protocol for Intimate Partner Violence Medical Forensic Examinations
The Justice Department today announced the release of the National Protocol for Intimate Partner Violence Medical Forensic Examinations. The protocol will guide the clinical practice of conducting comprehensive assessments for patients experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) that prioritize the patient’s health and well-being. Acting Director Allison Randall of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women made the announcement at the 2023 Conference on Crimes Against Women in Dallas.
IPV is a significant issue that poses considerable health, social, and legal challenges within the United States. It impacts individuals of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and socioeconomic statuses.
Conducting medical forensic exams within a trauma-informed framework is crucial to our nation’s response to IPV. They play a vital role not just in providing immediate medical attention, but also in supporting the long-term recovery, safety and well-being of victims. These examinations offer prompt and necessary medical care to victims, identifying even non-apparent injuries. They also collect critical evidence that can be used in legal proceedings. During the exam, victims are also given access to essential resources such as counseling and safety planning services. This provides a crucial lifeline of support, aiding their journey toward recovery and safety.
“The protocol helps ensure that victims will be cared for with compassion and respect after an assault,” said Acting Director Randall. “Clinicians have the chance to offer patients experiencing IPV an assortment of choices, empowering them to make the most suitable decisions for their own welfare and that of their loved ones. The evidence collected in the exam can also strengthen criminal cases to hold offenders accountable.”
The protocol, developed in a collaborative effort with the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) and an array of project partners across disciplines – health care, justice, victim advocacy, law enforcement, victim services and leading national entities – provides comprehensive guidance for patient care. It emphasizes delivering trauma-informed, patient-centered care across various health care settings and supports a gender-affirming approach to care. The protocol underscores the crucial role of accessible language and effective communication, and advocates for the use of interpretation and translation services to guarantee equitable access. It outlines protocols for screening IPV patients in all settings and emphasizes the provision of care in different age groups, from adolescents to older adults.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 41% of women and 26% of men experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner and reported an intimate partner violence-related impact during their lifetime. The protocol serves as an integral tool in bolstering the Justice Department’s endeavor to safeguard survivors of IPV as well as keeping communities nationwide safe.