Monthly Archives: July 2010

Traumatic Brain Injury from Domestic Violence

Excerpts from the report Increasing Awareness about Possible Neurological Alterations in Brain Status Secondary to Intimate Violence, by Mary Car, OTD, OTR/L, Information and Resource Manager, Brain Injury Association of America

• Intimate violence is the leading cause of serious injury to American women between the ages of 15 and 44.

• 95% of recipients of reported intimate violence acts are women.

• Up to 40% of women who visit hospital emergency rooms are there for symptoms related to physical abuse; however, depending on the statistics cited, as few as 2.8% to 10% of those women are identified as such.

• Death, brain injury and/or permanent damage may result from lethal violence. The brain can be assaulted directly by physical force and neurochemically from the prolonged effects of stress from intimate violence.

• When women report injuries—including skull fractures—in the emergency room, studies indicate a disproportionate amount of women are reporting they have fallen. These women are too young to be considered in a risk category for falls and may be part of the population with undiagnosed TBIs (traumatic brain injuries).

• Firearms used in intimate violence are 12 times as likely to cause death than use of any other weapon. Handguns are the weapons used most often against women in intimate violent relationships. The devastating TBIs caused by bullet wounds result in a 91% firearm-related death rate overall.

• There are many forms of TBIs which are not as recognizable and may go undiagnosed.

• These signs of strangulation or choking should prompt medical attention and care: scratches, bruises, red spots (from capillaries bursting), blood-red eyes, rope or cord burns, neck swelling (subtle to massive), red linear vertical or horizontal marks, complaints of neck pain, difficulty in swallowing or breathing, vomiting blood, coughing and a lost or raspy voice.

The Report:

Screening tools for TBI and domestic violence:

Virtual Knowledge Center to End Violence Against Women and Girls

Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls

Languages: English | French | Spanish

A one-stop online centre that encourages and supports evidence-based programming to more efficiently and effectively design, implement, monitor and evaluate initiatives to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. The website offers leading tools and evidence on what works, drawing on expert recommendations, policy and programme evaluations and assessments, and practitioners’ experiences from around the world. UNIFEM, 2010

Most Rape Kits Never Tested in Illinois

July 7, 2010 – Human Rights Watch

The vast majority of DNA evidence collected from rape victims in Illinois cannot be confirmed as tested, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today and based on data collected across the state.

A new law signed by Governor Pat Quinn this week makes Illinois the first state to require law enforcement officials to track and send this evidence to labs for DNA testing and could make Illinois a nationwide model, but the lack of funding for testing remains a source of concern.

The 42-page report, “‘I Used to Think the Law Would Protect Me’: Illinois’s Failure to Test Rape Kits,” collected comprehensive testing data from 127 of 264 jurisdictions in Illinois and found that only 1,474 of 7,494 sets of physical evidence, known as “rape kits,” booked into evidence since 1995 could be confirmed as tested. That suggests 80 percent of rape kits may never have been examined in the state.

The report found the backlog symptomatic of an overall failure by the Illinois criminal justice system to respond adequately to sexual assault crimes. Several major jurisdictions completely ignored Human Rights Watch’s record requests. Illinois’s inadequate response to sexual assault is reflected in its 11 percent arrest rate for sexual assault – one of the lowest in the nation and far below the national average of 22 percent.

“Illinois’s failure to test DNA evidence is not only an insult to rape victims – it puts all women at risk by leaving rapists who could be identified at large, some of whom may attack again,” said Sarah Tofte, US researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The data suggest that Illinois law enforcement just doesn’t see rape as a serious crime that’s worthy of time and resources.”

National studies have shown that cases in which rape kit evidence was tested were more likely to proceed through the criminal justice system and lead to arrests. Once New York City adopted the Giuliani-era policy to test every booked rape kit, its arrest rate for rape rose from 40 percent to 70 percent. In Los Angeles, a recent decision to test every booked rape kit uncovered DNA evidence from suspects in other rape cases.

Human Rights Watch’s report, the second on the rape kit backlog, is based on hundreds of public records data requests in Illinois and more than 300 interviews with rape victims, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and sexual assault treatment providers in the state.

The responses Human Rights Watch did receive from jurisdictions around the state also showed in many cases a chilling failure to protect the privacy of victims. Some jurisdictions erroneously sent Human Rights Watch the addresses, telephone numbers, and social security numbers of victims and suspects in response to our data requests. Several agencies sent the private information of juvenile victims. In an egregious error, test results containing the DNA profiles, names, and addresses of suspects were also mailed to Human Rights Watch.

As one rape victim told Human Rights Watch, “After this experience, I don’t feel safe anymore. I used to think that if something happened to me, the law would protect me. I don’t think it will anymore. I am a tough girl, but it made me feel like if something happened, the law isn’t there for me. It doesn’t really work.”

The report, the first known investigation of an entire state’s rape kit backlog, shows a distinct lack of uniformity across Illinois in how rape kits are processed and tracked, Human Rights Watch said. Insufficient hospital personnel and facilities to help victims of sexual assault, subjective decisions by police and prosecutors about whether to move forward with a case, and testing delays at the state crime laboratory all contribute to the problem, the research found.

The law would make Illinois the first state in the nation to require that every rape kit booked into evidence by law enforcement is sent to the crime lab for testing within 10 days of its collection.

The new Illinois law, the 2010 Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act, championed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, has the potential to remedy the state’s rape kit backlog, Human Rights Watch said. The landmark legislation passed the state legislature this spring and was signed by Governor Pat Quinn on July 6, 2010. The law would make Illinois the first state in the nation to require that every rape kit booked into evidence by law enforcement is sent to the crime lab for testing within 10 days of its collection.

However, the law includes a provision that testing of every kit within the time frame specified will only occur “if sufficient staffing and resources are available.” Human Rights Watch found that the Illinois state crime labs currently do not have the capacity to handle the influx in rape kit testing that will result from the new law.

“This new law offers Illinois the chance to overcome its dismal record on rape arrests and become a leader in bringing justice to rape victims,” Tofte said. “But Illinois needs to provide adequate resources and stringent oversight to ensure that its legal commitment to testing becomes a reality.”

Rape kit testing can be used to identify the assailant, confirm a suspect’s contact with the victim, corroborate the victim’s account of the assault, connect the case to other rape crime scene evidence or separate incidents, and exonerate innocent suspects or defendants.

Police and sheriff’s departments have no uniform rules for tracking rape kits booked into their evidence storage facilities. There are no state guidelines for tracking rape kits, recording the status of rape kits, or formatting the chain of reports involved in the tracking process. Until Human Rights Watch requested the rape kit data from these jurisdictions, many had never counted their untested rape kits or set up a system to track the testing of these kits.

“Our investigation in Illinois revealed a patchwork of chaotic and under-resourced law enforcement responses to rape victims,” Tofte said. “The disorder in law enforcement was at best inattentive to victims, and in some egregious instances, clearly violated their privacy rights under Illinois law.”

Efforts to Address Gender-Based Violence: Funding

Efforts to Address Gender-Based Violence: A Look at Foundation Funding
(Ms. Foundation for Women, 2010)

“Foundations play a critical role in supporting efforts to address gender-based violence, yet little research has been conducted on the level or type of funding in the U.S. Spurred by the paucity of data and analysis, the Ms. Foundation for Women undertook a multi-pronged study to measure the scope, focus and impact of funding in this area. Coinciding with the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, this report reviews the progress foundations have made in addressing gender based violence in order to sketch the current philanthropic landscape and its potential for growth.”

Findings included that grantees employing a social-service approach to their work received the most grant dollars, with a social justice perspective receiving the second highest level of support, followed by human rights and feminist perspectives.

Some of the Key Recommendations
 Include systems change, policy, and advocacy along with direct services funding
 Increase support for violence prevention
 Create connections across the full spectrum of gender-based violence issues
 Create connections between gender-based violence and other major issues addressed by philanthropy
 Build a gender-based violence funder community

See the report here

Sexual Violence in Later Life Information Packet

Sexual Violence in Later Life Information Packet
(National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2010)

Sexual violence can affect individuals across the life span, including people in later life. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has created a series of new resources related to sexual violence in later life.

The packet includes the following: fact sheet, technical assistance bulletin, technical assistance guide, resource list, annotated bibliography and research brief.

The Packet is Available Here

Tools for Forensic Compliance

End Violence Against Women (EVAW) International

New Resource
Virginia Guidelines and Tools for Forensic Compliance

This document was recently developed to provide detailed guidelines and tools to guide the integrated response to sexual assault by health care providers, law enforcement professionals, victim advocates, and others. The document is titled: “Virginia’s Healthcare Response to Sexual Assault: Guidelines for the Acute Care of Adult and Post-Pubertal Adolescent Sexual Assault Patients.” It was developed by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and the Virginia Chapter of the International Association of Forensic Nurses, in collaboration with a wide range of multidisciplinary partners. The project was supported with a grant from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), with funds authorized by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

It is available for free online

From the announcement about the material:

Clearly, these materials can be extremely helpful for health care providers and other professionals involved in sexual assault response in communities across Virginia. However, they are equally valuable for professionals outside the state. Much of the information is helpful because it is non-state specific and can be implemented regardless of where the health care facility is located. Yet even the information that is state-specific can be used by professionals outside Virginia as well. It provides guidance for the type of information and materials that must be developed in each state, to ensure that the protocols and procedures for medical forensic examinations achieve the goals of forensic compliance. The document also provides an excellent model for other states to replicate. Communities across the country would benefit greatly if each state produced a similar compilation of guidelines and tools.

(Information published here is from the EVAW announcement and is not necessarily the opinion of the administrators of this website.)

UN Women

In an historic move, the United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously on 2 July 2010 to create a new entity to accelerate progress in meeting the needs of women and girls worldwide.

The establishment of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — to be known as UN Women — is a result of years of negotiations between UN Member States and advocacy by the global women’s movement. It is part of the UN reform agenda, bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact.

The creation of UN Women came about as part of the UN reform agenda, bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact. It will merge and build on the important work of four previously distinct parts of the UN system which focus exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The main roles of UN Women are:

To support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms

To help Member States to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it and to forge effective partnerships with civil society.

To hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.