By Maj. Brian Bolton, 150th Medical DetachmentJune 12, 2013
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea (June 12, 2013) -- When sexual assault occurs, victims deserve swift, competent and compassionate care. Through various Army initiatives, including Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, and the "I. A.M. STRONG" campaign, the ability to treat and support victims, as well as identify and bring justice, has been improved.
In May, the 65th Medical Brigade sponsored a two week inter-service course, conducted for standardized forensics collecting. Successful collection of evidence is important to successfully serve justice for this crime. Just as critical is performing sexual assault forensic exams in a timely, sensitive, dignified, and victim-centered manner.
"The Sexual Assault Medical Forensics Examiners course was conducted to train an adequate number of medical professionals for the peninsula," said Kandice Ray, a U.S. Army Medical Command SHARP nurse administrator visiting from Fort Sam Houston, Texas. "This was the first of three training classes scheduled for this calendar year on the Korean peninsula."
"We are building a SAMFE program on this peninsula to ensure a core of highly trained medical professionals to assist victims" explained Capt. Kelly Meister, the Area III public health nurse and sexual assault coordinator for the peninsula. "Our goal is to build an Army best practice model program here on the peninsula."
Sexual assault can result in physical trauma and significant mental anguish and suffering for victims. Victims may be reluctant, however, to report the assault to law enforcement, or to seek medical attention for a variety of reasons unique to each assault. The Army provides multiple reporting alternatives for victims, based on the request of the individual.
Restricted reporting is an option for a victim to confidentially disclose the crime. Only specifically identified individuals are aware of the facts and the victim receives medical treatment and counseling without triggering the official investigative process. Unrestricted reporting, which is reported through the normal chain of command, law enforcement or to the SARC, is also an option.
"Victim-centered care is paramount to the success of the exam process and this is a key component of the course," said Meister. She said that "participants gained valuable training from the course, and the legal day was fascinating. Captain Jessica Duffy led a mock court martial, with many students gaining experience to become certified expert witnesses and cross examination by defense counsel."
The course trained all students to one standard on the forensic collection of evidence using standardized kits. Commercial evidence kits, at a minimum include checklists, forms, and materials for collecting and preserving all evidence. Evidence that may be collected includes clothing, foreign materials on the body, hair (samples and combings), swabs and smears, multiple body fluid samples swabs for DNA analysis and comparison, and toxicology testing samples to name but a few.
The final event of the course required students to pass a rigorous competency -- collecting evidence with the commercial forensic kit. Several days of familiarization and training were dedicated to the process.