Background on VAWA 2005 and Forensic Compliance
In May of 2009, EVAWI was awarded a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), Office Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The purpose of the grant is to help professionals implement a community response system that is compliant with the forensic medical examination requirements of the Violence Against Women Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. § 3796gg-4(d). This act, often referred to as “VAWA 2005,” specifies that states and territories may not “require a victim of sexual assault to participate in the criminal justice system or cooperate with law enforcement in order to be provided with a forensic medical exam, reimbursed for charges incurred on account of such an exam, or both.” In other words, VAWA 2005 was designed to ensure that victims of sexual assault have access to a forensic medical exam free of charge or with full reimbursement regardless of whether they report the crime to police or otherwise cooperate with the criminal justice system.
All states and territories must now certify (as of January 5, 2009) that they are in compliance with these requirements in order to remain eligible for STOP Grant funds from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). Yet communities face considerable challenges in designing a protocol for the initial response to a sexual assault disclosure, as well as addressing questions regarding payment for the medical forensic examination, mandatory reporting to law enforcement, storage and transportation of evidence, case tracking and retrieval, processing of evidence, and the potential for evidence-based prosecution (i.e., without the victim’s cooperation). For many states and territories, the changes that are required in public policy and daily practice have been described as “monumental.” Some of these questions are addressed in the “Frequently Asked Questions” document published by OVW.
The proposed project builds on the efforts of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), which published a toolkit for states and territories. It is entitled: Ensuring Forensic Medical Exams for All Sexual Assault Victims. This Forensic Compliance Toolkit was developed in close collaboration with OVW staff, and it provides detailed guidance for criminal justice and community professionals who are working toward establishing a compliant system.
As part of this grant, we have developed and disseminated a number of resources for professionals to adapt for use in their own communities. Please click here to review resources, which include a community self-assessment tool and sample policies, protocols, forms, and other documents that can be adapted for use. We also offer detailed answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
This project is supported by Grant No. 2009-TA-AX-K003 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed on this website and all posted materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.
All states and territories must now certify (as of January 5, 2009) that they are in compliance with these requirements in order to remain eligible for STOP Grant funds from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).