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.
The University Hospital Heidelberg developed an online training on clinical forensic examinations for medical staff including physicians and nurses, but also for professionals caring for and supporting persons, who have experienced violence, such as employees of victim support services, police, judges, etc. The video gives detailed instructions and information on how best to carry out a clinical forensic examination on victims of violence to ultimately help them to assert their rights before court.
An awareness-raising short film on clinical forensic examinations highlights the significant role of medical professionals in victim support and the necessity of tracing and preserving evidence.
On 24 September 2020, the first Jour fixe meeting took place at the Floridsdorf hospital in Vienna.
A project flyer has been produced in order to give a quick overview on project activities and outputs. The document is available in the download section of this article.
Agnes Taibl, Sabine Mandl