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Options for Reporting

As part of the informed consent process program, a nurse should be able to explain to the patient his or her options for reporting. Options may vary depending on the age of the patient, jurisdiction of where the assault occurred, and whether or not there are mandatory laws for reporting sexual assault. 

  1. Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reporting requirements. Victims must have access to the medical forensic examination without having to cooperate with law enforcement. Whether or not a victim cooperates with law enforcement, no out-of-pocket expenses that result from the forensic examination can be billed to the patient.

    Under VAWA and subsequent legislation, states must ensure, as a condition of certain grant funding, that victims have access to medical forensic exams and that those exams are paid for without regard to cooperation with law enforcement or the criminal justice system.

    Some states meet this requirement through a system of “blind or anonymous reporting,” where the case is assigned a number rather than the victim’s name, and the victim is given the number to use if he or she wants to report the case to law enforcement at a later time. Reporting the crime is not required so long as the victim has access to the exam.
  2. Some states have mandatory medical reporting requirements for sexual assault cases that go beyond the mandatory reporting laws for vulnerable populations such as children, elder adults, and persons with disabilities. These laws are compliant with the VAWA provision because the medical provider making the report is not requiring victim cooperation with law enforcement. The victim/patient should still be informed that the medical provider is mandated to report by state law.
    1. While military commanders initially insisted they be notified automatically when a member assigned to their command is sexually assaulted, since March 2005, the military has provided the option for members to make a Restricted report, where commanders and law enforcement are not notified of the identity of the victim. The only official notification, for documentation and data collection purposes, is that within 24 hours of a report of sexual assault, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator must notify the Senior Commander of the assault without providing the person’s name or personally identifiable information. A sexual assault victim in the military can convert their reporting option from Restricted to Unrestricted at any time. The only consideration is that the SAFE kit is only retained for 5 years. 
    2. Campuses may have mandatory reporting for campus employees under the campus definition of Title IX requirements.