Sexual Assault Forensic Protocol

The Sexual Assault Forensic Protocol (SAFP) team worked with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to develop guidelines for correctional facilities, including prisons, jails, police lockups, and residential community corrections, to adapt the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adult/Adolescents (“national protocol”) to their unique setting. The development of the guide met one of the recommendations made by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission in its final report and aided facility compliance with several of the commission’s standards. 

Why We Need This Project

In 2003, Congress passed the landmark Prison Rape Elimination Act and launched the first national effort to address sexual assault in the nation’s correctional settings. As a result of the act, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission was created and they developed national standards aimed at ultimately eliminating sexual assault in confinement.

One of the commission’s charges was to develop a protocol for collection of forensic evidence during medical examinations following sexual assaults in all correctional settings. When Vera staff began working with the commission to identify resources for development of a protocol, it became clear that the existing national protocol was the gold standard and should be adapted by correctional agencies. The commission decided correctional institutions, whether prisons, jails, or residential community correction facilities, universally face challenges related to the protection of survivors. Security concerns arise from the fact that survivors are often inmates or, in the case of a community corrections facility, residents. Survivors of sexual assault who are inmates or residents may not be treated the way we would expect survivors in the free world to be treated, either by design or because it is difficult to find the professional resources to provide support and proper medical care for these individuals. Confidentiality is also very difficult to maintain in a correctional setting and becomes a significant challenge during the course of a sexual assault investigation in a prison or jail.

Building on the commission’s work, the SAFP conducted an intensive study of the challenges correctional agencies face in implementing the protocol and proposed best-practice solutions. Out of this process, the SAFP produced a guide that describes these challenges and provides specific steps for each type of facility to take in order to adapt and implement the national protocol.