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Medical History and Law Enforcement Interviews: Separate and Collaborative

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2018
2 pages
As part of the training and technical assistance provided to grantees under the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), which addresses the backlog of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) in local and state jurisdictions, this paper describes the separate roles and responsibilities of a law enforcement officer as investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) as health care provider; and it also discusses the importance of affording the patient privacy and focusing on medical concerns throughout the sexual assault examination, keeping it separate from the law enforcement interview with the victim.
Some jurisdictions have attempted to make sexual assault investigations more efficient by allowing a law enforcement officer to be present when the SANE takes the patient's medical history, so as to minimize the need for multiple interviews with the victim. On the other hand, the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative's Training and Technical Assistance team (SAKI TTA) recommends that the SANE's medical forensic history of the patient - including psychosocial, medical, and history of the incident - remain separate from the law enforcement interview and report. The SANE's primary role is to conduct a patient-centered medical examination. The SANE documents biological and physical findings and, with the patient's permission, collects evidence from the patient-victim related to the assault. Law enforcement's primary role when responding to a sexual assault is to obtain the greatest amount of information possible while minimizing victim retraumatization. When both law enforcement and medical personnel are together with the victim-patient in an initial interaction or after the medical examination, it is critical that the goals of the law enforcement personnel and medical team remain independent.

Date Published: September 1, 2018