A new national protocol designed to meet the “emotional and physical needs” of sexual assault victims has been developed that includes information on emergency contraception. The national guide, a voluntary outline of standards of care for medical professionals, is the first time that these standards have been updated since 2004. This is a crucial move for making the medical care of sexual assault victims less traumatic for the survivor, and for the prosecution of those who commit such acts.
Sexual assault survivors are more likely to cooperate with the justice system when they have, and standardized best practices for collecting evidence after a sexual assault means that more perpetrators are likely to be caught. More importantly, sexual assault survivors will now be provided with information about obtaining emergency contraception like Plan B, even if the medical professional is opposed personally to contraception. There have been instances of hospitals and jails where this has not been the case, and the standards will be mandatory for practitioners in federal institutions, including prisons and the military. The protocol is good news for those trying to prosecute sex assault perpetrators and for victim advocates alike.
What’s most vital about these new standards is the assistance it will provide those working on the ground to end sexual assault in advocating for the resources they need. Think Progress quotes former sex crimes investigator Jim Markey: what the new protocol does is “allows workers in the trenches, those victim advocates, those detectives and nurses, to go to the decision makers and leaders in their communities and say: ‘You know what? Here are the standards. We need the resources to provide the minimum standards that are in this protocol.'"
The new protocol is not perfect: it does not require medical practitioners to provide these resources to sexual assault survivors, which means that they might choose not to give out emergency contraception information. However, the mere existence of the protocol allows medical practitioners to be more conscious of options for sexual assault survivors, and to fight for what’s needed both to assist those affected and identify and prosecute perpetrators. That’s a step in the right direction, and will help ease the trauma of sexual assault of those afflicted.