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Shifting Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners Orientation From Prosecutorial to Patient-Centered: The Role of Training

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 35 Issue: 21-22 Dated: 2020 Pages: 4757-4778
D. Patterson; et al
Date Published
22 pages

The current qualitative study explored if and how a national blended SAFE training influenced participants’ adoption of a patient-centered orientation.


Sexual assault forensic examiners (SAFEs) have a complex role that entails providing health care and medical forensic evidence collection. The literature indicates that there are two orientations that guide SAFEs in this role. A patient-centered orientation emphasizes attending to emotional needs, offering options, and respecting survivors’ decisions, which has been linked to positive emotional outcomes. A prosecutorial orientation places emphasis on evidence collection and has been associated with providing fewer comprehensive services. SAFE training may play a pivotal role in guiding new SAFEs to adopt a patient-centered orientation. However, there is a paucity of research examining how training can bolster the adoption of this orientation. In the current study, semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with 64 health care professionals who participated in a national SAFE training. Utilizing analytic induction, the results suggest that the majority of participants entered the training with a prosecutorial orientation but shifted to a patient-centered orientation. Multiple elements of the training influenced this shift including (a) content that dispelled misconceptions of survivors; (b) providing explanations of how attending to survivors’ well-being can lead to positive outcomes; (c) earlier placement of patient-centered content to allow instructors to explain how patient-centered care can be applied to each component of the SAFE role including the medical forensic exam; and (d) continual emphasis on patient-centered care. (Publisher Abstract)