One of the objectives of the Department of Health’s National Sexual Assault Policy is to establish “designated, specialized, accessible, 24 hour health care services.”
There are many benefits to achieving this objective. These include:
1. Improved medico-legal examinations and evidence
Well-done medico-legal examinations and accurate documentation completed by trained and knowledgeable health workers may significantly increase the likelihood of rape cases progressing through the criminal justice system to go to trial.
2. Improved treatment of victims
In the aftermath of a sexual offence, victims are highly susceptible to the opinions and judgments of others. They also need supportive crisis intervention.
An examination performed by someone ignorant of the psychological impact of rape and who freely dispenses judgment and blame will add to the victims’ psychological distress.
3. Reduced waiting period
Having a designated, specialized health worker available at health care facilities may cut down the lengthy waiting periods that victims endure.
This person would know, as would other staff, that their priority is to provide forensic services. This means that other duties must be postponed when someone comes in who needs his/her services.
4. Court testimonies
People who have gone through forensic training are aware that one of their duties includes testifying in court.
As a result, they are repared for such duties and would not fail to appear in court, or be reluctant to testify. This is not always the case with medical officers who are not specifically employed to provide forensic services.
Download Forensic Nursing Briefing Note
This paper outlines why South Africa needs a policy on forensic nursing, how it would help rape survivors and what needs to be done to put it into practice.