Surviving victims of physical violence or sexual abuse are often traumatised, vulnerable and in urgent need of help. In some cases, they may not be willing to come forward as a victim of crime on their own, or may need time to come forward. Meanwhile, their injuries might have healed. If not documented in a clinical forensically professional way, they may thus have lost key evidence for future court proceedings. A crucial factor for accomplishing significant improvements in victims’ position in criminal or civil proceedings is the knowledge about their rights within the group of medical professionals who are dealing with them. They are often their first contact points. However, in many cases they are lacking the necessary expertise on taking clinical forensic evidence because their focus lies exclusively on the patient’s healing. The sensitisation of medical staff for traces of violence is therefore indispensable. A good doctor-patient bond can also be used to inform surviving victims of physical violence and/or sexual abuse about their basic rights and to help them to take the next steps, e.g. to put them in touch with victims’ support organisations.
The RiVi Project focuses on the right of victims of crime to access clinical forensic examinations, independently of filing a criminal charge. This allows for storing evidence that might be needed for future proceedings.
The specific project objectives are:
- Improving medical personnel’s knowledge about specific provisions of the EU acquis regulating victims’ rights by giving an overview on the term “victim of crime” in the European legal context and by analysing those victims' rights which are connected to or dependent on clinical forensic examinations.
- Giving medical professionals the tools which are required for performing a clinical forensic examination.
- Sensitizing and training medical professionals on taking clinical forensic evidence of physical and/or sexualised violence.
- Increasing the number of professionals and institutions capable of performing clinical forensic examinations of surviving victims of physical violence and/or sexual abuse to meet the requirements of the Directive 2012/29/EU (victims’ rights directive), especially the right to be timely examined in a clinical forensic manner.
- Improving cooperation among all stakeholders in the field of victims' rights by following an interdisciplinary approach and linking professionals (representatives from the medical and nursing staff, police, prosecution, judiciary, child and victim support services etc.) in regular multi-disciplinary “Jour Fixe” meetings.
The RiVi Project is a follow-up project to the previous DG Justice project JUSTeU! (https://www.justeu.org/) which explains the importance and legal background of clinical forensic examinations.
Project news: The project kick-off meeting took place on 17 May 2019 in Vienna. Participants discussed the workpackages of the project and agreed on the next steps to be taken. On 28 October 2019, the first project meeting, RiMe #1, was held in Hannover. The concepts previously worked out by the project partners were presented at the meeting and jointly approved. At the beginning of 2020, the focus is on sensitization and training activities for medical professionals that will be implemented in all project countries.
The public project outputs will be available in the download section of this article upon completion.
Agnes Taibl, Sabine Mandl