[Svrilist] Research on Genital Photography in Sexual Assault

Marg Darcy marg.darcy at rwh.org.au
Tue Sep 5 09:12:11 SAST 2006

Just a comment on Angela's comment that 'examiners are understandably
horrified that the decision doesn't lie with them'.  


I am intrigued by this as surely the decision should lie with the
victim/survivor (or their guardian in the case of children) and any
discussion or policy making processes should be in the victim/survivor's
interests, rather than a decision by an examiner.  Determining the interests
of victim/survivors generally should come from a broad discussion canvassing
opinions from a range of people, including victim/survivors themselves, and
counselor/advocates who work with victim/survivors over a long period and
have an understanding of the long term trauma of sexual assault, not just
what happens at the time of examination.  Colposcopies and vaginal
ultrasounds, which I understand some states are considering or using, are
both highly invasive procedures, which many women find difficult in ordinary
circumstances, much less immediately after a sexual assault.  


Marg D'Arcy

Program Manager

Cancer, CASA, Advocacy, Diversity and Social Support

Royal Women's Hospital

132 Grattan Street

Carlton  3053


 <mailto:marg.darcy at rwh.org.au> marg.darcy at rwh.org.au


Phone 9344 2271  fax 9344 3422


From: Angela Williams [mailto:angelac at vifm.org] 
Sent: Tuesday, 5 September 2006 1:19 PM
To: Sexual violence research initiative.
Subject: Re: [Svrilist] Research on Genital Photography in Sexual Assault


Hi Suzanne,

It is interesting that you ask at such a time - we are in the midst of
debate on this topic.  


Practice:  Videocolposcopy is almost routinely performed on cases of child
sexual assault (past and recent).

               General consensus here is that there is rarely any indication
for the use of videocolp of genital examinations in adults, and it is rarely

               Photography of body injuries is common occurrence - child and


Policy:  Causing some very interesting debate presently.  I wont head into
the finest details as yet except to say that one state wants to make policy
against the use of videocolposcopy in adults.  Overall, the examiners are
understandably horrified that the decision doesn't lie with them.  There is
a draft policy circulating that has caused much angst.  I will let you know
of the final version if you are interested.  In the meantime, perhaps as a
kneejerk response, the policy making teams throughout Australia (!) are on
the way to creating their own.  Indeed our organisation (FAMSACA = Forensic
and Medical Sexual Assault Clinicians Australia) will be finalizing our own
version shortly.


2) We hold a very strong view that NO genital photography reaches court.
Access to the Judge and both legal representatives is possible but is also
challenged.  The ideal scenario is that the two medical experts view the
material behind closed doors and agree to agree or disagree on the findings.
Withholding this material from the court has not been a problem in the
system within which I work (yet! - as we are very mindful that this may
occur in legal process).


3)Recently the age range for children was redefined as 17 or younger in the

However, genital photography on children is rarely performed in the older
adolescent group - I don't really have figures for you on this one.
Personally, I probably perform them on 14year olds and less - mostly as an
exercise in teaching/reassuring than for legal reasons.  Mostly, they agree
to using the videocolp to examine but not to recording (therefore they (and
I) can see but not taped).


4)       Yes to how they feel about them being done, but not sure if in the
context of proceeding to court.??


Your work is really interesting and if you have a moment keep in touch
regarding the progress.  I am also writing on behalf of the FAMSACA
organisation of which I am the president.  The website is:
www.Famsacaustralia.org.au <http://www.famsacaustralia.org.au/>  if you ever
want to browse.








Dr Angela Williams

Forensic Physician

Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine

11 Moore St, Southbank  VIC 3006

Ph: (03) 9684 4480

Fx: (03) 9684 4481

-----Original Message-----
From: Sexual Violence Research Initiative [mailto:svri at mrc.ac.za] 
Sent: Thursday, 31 August 2006 3:59 PM
To: Sexual Violence Research Initiative
Subject: [Svrilist] Research on Genital Photography in Sexual Assault


Dear Colleagues, 

The Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres in
Canada, is conducting a review of current practice and evidence of
photographs of genital injuries and their use as evidence in sexual assault
cases. The findings from the review will inform the development of a
Province-wide policy on the use of such photo's, which currently are not
standard practice.

Specific questions being examined include: 

(1) What policies and practices are currently in use in other countries and
practice settings. 
(2) Are genital photo's being used in court cases, and if so, how and to
what end? 
(3) Are genital photo's being taken for both adults and children, and if
their use is limited to children what is the age range?
(4) Are there any studies that have looked at how victims feel about genital
photographs being taken and subsequently used in legal proceedings?

Our preliminary scan of the academic literature has produced very little. As
such, we want to invite members of the SVRI listserv to share any relevant
policies, guidelines or research their respective agencies have. Comments,
questions, references and resources can be forward to Suzanne Sicchia at:
Suzanne.Sicchia at utoronto.ca

Many Thanks, 
Suzanne Sicchia, Research Consultant 
University of Toronto, Canada 

on behalf of the 
Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment  

The 9th Congress of the Indo-Pacific Association of Law, Medicine and
is being held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 22-27 July 2007.
Go to www.inpalms.com for registration details.
If you would like further information, contact Patricia O'Brien
patricio at vifm.org

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