Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview Comes to the Special Victims Division of the New York City Police Department
The NYPD has received $250,000 in 2016 for the training of 230 law enforcement officers within the Special Victims Division.
The Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) technique, created by former special agent for the US Army Criminal Investigation Division, Russell Strand, is a new approach to interviewing sexual violence victims. Traditional law enforcement interview techniques do not always recognize the role of trauma in memory retrieval and can risk alienating victims while missing vital evidence. FETI training teaches law enforcement personnel to approach victims with a deeper understanding of how trauma affects brain function before and during the time of an interview. It is designed to enhance the victim’s ability to recall information and gather the best possible evidence by interviewing victims in ways that empower and soothe. Since the Ashland, Oregon Police Department launched the “You Have Options” program which implements the FETI training , the number of sexual assault reports in Ashland has increased by 106 percent. The training requires a significant time commitment by officers of the Special Victims Division and therefore is a significant investment by NYPD in advancing investigative efforts in sexual violence cases.
Child Victim Act: the extension of the statute of limitations on child sexual assault
Statutes of Limitations are laws which specify how long, after certain actions take place, a case can be filed in criminal or civil courts based on those actions (for example, actions based on a car accident must be brought before 3 years in civil court). New York State has a very short window during which a victim of child sexual abuse can bring a civil suit against their perpetrator. It is 5 years from the time of the abuse or from the date the abuse was first reported. And some sexual abuse crimes against children also have a 5 year criminal statute of limitations. For multiple years, there have been legislative proposals, called the Child Victims Act, to rectify this. The New York City Alliance against Sexual Assault supports the expansion of the NYS Statute of Limitations in child sexual abuse in civil and criminal cases.
Enough is Enough: NYS statute requiring new response to sexual and domestic violence on campus
In July, 2015, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the “Enough is Enough” legislation into law in an effort to address sexual assault taking place on college campuses in New York State. The law explicitly defines affirmative consent as a conscious, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. It emphasizes that silence or lack of resistance does not demonstrate consent, while also specifying that the definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The legislation also creates a victims’ bill of rights and amnesty from disciplinary action for drug or alcohol violations for students who report sexual assault. This law applies to all state and private universities and colleges in New York State. It also requires the creation of a new “sexual assault victims unit” within the State Police. “Enough is Enough” provides $10 million divided among the rape crisis centers, the State Police and higher education institutions to help combat campus sexual assault.
Disparity of Access to Acute Sexual Violence Services
Through contact with programs that provide services to victims of sexual violence and from survivors themselves in our direct service advocacy program, the Alliance has identified gaps in sexual assault acute care services in New York City. There are, currently, only two, small certified Rape crisis programs (RCPs) in Brooklyn, whereas there are 7 RCP sites in Manhattan. There are only two programs in the Bronx and both Brooklyn and the Bronx lack private hospital facilities that are certified to provide the forensic medical exam to survivors. In addition, state funds, a major source of support for sexual assault programs had been declining until recently and then despite increases, unpredictable in their distribution. This has resulted in an inability to plan and disruption of services in New York City programs. As a result, the Alliance is supporting a proposal to create a funding stream of $2,672,000 In order to address these issues. The funding would be allocated to provide for the increased provision of services to sexual assault victims/survivors by sexual violence programs city-wide and for the creation of two Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) Centers of Excellence in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Forensic Rape Exam Direct Reimbursement Program
NYS Executive Law Section 631 (13) provides that a hospital, a sexual assault examiner program or licensed health care facility must offer sexual assault patients the option to either pay for the forensic rape exam (FRE) through their private insurance or to request that these charges be paid by the NYS Office of Victim Services (OVS). If patients do not have insurance, they will not be billed for the FRE. When patients either do not have the ability to pay, or decline insurance benefits, hospitals submit the charges for these exams to OVS for direct reimbursement.
This provision provides for up to $800 in reimbursement costs for the exam. However, since the enactment of this law in 2005, costs of this exam have risen considerably. It is the contention of the Alliance along with healthcare and forensic providers throughout NYC and NYS, that this amount is not currently reflective of the cost to medical providers for the FRE. Furthermore, reimbursement for less than actual cost might discourage hospitals and institutions from supporting and/or initiating specialized programs to assist sexual assault survivors. Therefore, the Alliance supports initiatives and collaborative efforts to increase the reimbursement amount. This is being accomplished through organizing sources of support for this initiative, data gathering of actual cost of FRE and HIV PeP, and ongoing communication with legislative representatives.