Example: The Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act (1998) of Philippines states that:
Upon receipt by the police of the complaint for rape, it shall be the duty of the police officer to:(a) Immediately refer the case to the prosecutor for inquest/investigation if the accused is detained; otherwise, the rules of court shall apply; (b) Arrange for counselling and medical services for the offended party; and (c) Immediately make a report on the action taken. Section 4
Example: in Toronto, Ontario, in Canada, police must receive specialized training and accreditation to handle sexual offences. The specially-accredited officers conduct all in-depth interviews with victims. The department’s website explains: “All sexual assault occurrences are assigned to those who are qualified in the area of sexual assault investigation. These officers have the training, desire, and dedication to investigate these difficult cases to their fullest.”
However, it is important to note that specialized police units, although generally credited with increasing reports of sexual assault and the likelihood that victims will receive services, cannot be effective unless each member of the team, whether woman or man, receives specialized training on a victim-centered response. In addition, the unit must receive adequate funding and resources such as computers and vehicles in order to do its job well. Finally, the units must be an integral part of a comprehensive police response- not marginalized or undermined by other police or justice system professionals. A “mainstreaming” approach to the police response to sexual assault victims can also be an effective response. See: Morrison et.al. Addressing Gender-Based Violence in the Latin Americas and Caribbean Region: A Critical Review of Interventions (2004). Available in English.
Sierra Leone: The Sierra Leone police have established Family Support Units (FSUs) in police stations throughout the country. The FSUs are comprised of police who have been trained to work with victims of sexual violence. They provide sensitive and appropriate assistance to victims, refer them to cost-free medical care and legal services, and educate the public on all areas of gender-based violence. Since the inception of FSUs, reports of sexual violence have increased in Sierra Leone, and a UNICEF assessment found that the stigma associated with sexual exploitation and abuse has been reduced. See: Women Building Peace and Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict-Affected Contexts: A Review of Community-Based Approaches (2007), p. 11.
Philippines: The Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act (1998) of Philippines states that:
It shall be the duty of the police officer or the examining physician, who must be of the same gender as the offended party, to ensure that only persons expressly authorized by the offended party shall be allowed inside the room where the investigation or medical or physical examination is being conducted.
For this purpose, a women’s desk must be established in every police precinct throughout the country to provide a police woman to conduct investigation of complaints of women rape victims. Section 4 (c)
The Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs has developed recommendations (PDF, 22 pages) for official responses to sexual assault that includes guidelines on montoring the implementation of the protocol.
Women's Justice Centre,"Form for Evaluating Police Response to Rape and Sexual Assault," a form for victims to evaluate the police response. Available in English and Spanish.
See: Protocols and Polices, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights.
Case Study: Capitol Offense: Police Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases in the United States District of Columbia
In 2013, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on the police response to sexual assault in the District of Columbia, United States. The report stated that although an estimated one in five women in the United States is a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime, only 16 percent of all rapes are reported to law enforcement. It found that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, District of Columbia, frequently closed cases without pursuing an adequate investigation. MPD officers did not document or report many cases and classified a number of other serious sexual assaults in ways that precluded investigation or minimized the assault. The report found that officers were likely to disregard cases involving the use of drugs or alcohol. The authors stated, “This practice suggests a lack of understanding or sensitivity among some MPD detectives to the fact that sexual assaults frequently occur at times when the victim has consumed substances such as alcohol or drugs. The victim’s consumption of such substances – or the victim’s confusion or inability to recall some events surrounding the assault - should not be a reason to automatically dismiss a case.” (p. 10) Other cases were sent to prosecutors with incomplete investigations, with the result that prosecutors labeled them “weak” and closed them. Numerous examples of police mistreatment of victims were cited, including threatening victims with prosecution if they were found to be lying, requiring victims to give long, detailed interviews while traumatized, asking inappropriate or blaming questions, discouraging victims from undergoing a forensic exam, and failing to respond to victims who called seeking information or because their assailant was threatening them. (p.15)
HRW compared the response of four other US cities to sexual assault cases and determined that the MPD should incorporate a number of effective approaches to sexual assault cases, including:
HRW issued recommendations to all levels of the US government and 24 recommendations to the MDP on treating victims fairly and improving accountability for police response to sexual assault cases.
Human Rights Watch, Capital Offense: Police Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases in the District of Columbia (2013). Available in English.
In addition, HRW issued a supplement to the report entitled Improving Police Response to Sexual Assault.The supplement proposed a victim-centered approach to sexual assault cases and stated that the changes, highlighted below, do not require an increase in budget for police; only a top-down commitment to culture change.
It emphasized the following:
The supplement described concrete methods of increasing police accountability to ensure that sexual assault investigations have been handled appropriately. They include:
For a video entitled US: DC Police Fail Rape Victims, click here.
Tools for Police Investigation Protocols:
International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Investigating Sexual Assaults Model Policy (2005). Available in English.
International Association of Chiefs of Police, IACP Sexual Assault Incident Reports: Investigative Strategies (2005) Available in English.
IACP Sexual Assault Supplemental Report Form and Investigative Strategies (2008) This tool, based on best practices and developed with the goal of enabling successful prosecutions, consists of a supplemental report form, guidelines for case documentation, effective techniques for victim and perpetrator interviews, and a pocket “tip” card for officers.Available in English.
IACP, Investigating Sexual Assaults: Part I Elements of Sexual Assault and Initial Response (2005) This Training Key addresses investigative procedures and best practices for investigating sexual assaults and working with victims of sexual violence.Available in English.
IACP, Investigating Sexual Assault: Part II Investigative Procedures (2005) Victim care and forensic exams. Available in English.
IACP, Investigating Sexual Assault Part III Investigative Strategy & Prosecution (2005). This tool guides officers to determine possible defences which may be raised and tailor investigations to address them. Available in English.
End Violence Against Women International offers a number of free online trainings for police on best practices on responding to sexual assault cases. For information on courses offered, click here.
California Guidelines for Sexual Assault Investigation (1999). Available in English
South Africa’s National Management Guidelines for Sexual Assault (2003). Available in English.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Introductory Handbook on Policing Urban Space (2011). The Handbook provides practitioners, including government officials, police, municipal planners and members of civic groups, especially in low- and middle-income countries, with a basic conceptual grounding in democratic policing, and guidelines on good practices so that they can successfully undertake democratic policing in urban contexts. Available in English.
Sierra Leone Police and Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, The Family Support Unit Training Manual (2008). The manual aims to train Family Support Unit personnel (police and social workers), judges and court personnel, schools, advocates and communities. It contains separate modules with practical guidance, including, for example, interviewing witnesses and the dynamics of domestic and gender-based violence. Available in English
See: IACP National Working Group on Sexual Offenses by Police Officers, Addressing Sexual Offenses and Misconduct by Law Enforcement: Executive Guide (2011), available in English.