Hospitals ordered to halt destruction of forensic rape evidence

“It shows that it is possible to bring about a change. In days like this, such things cannot be taken for granted.”

By
May 8, 2018 18:12
2 minute read.
A CHILD abuse victim is portrayed in this illustrative photo

A CHILD abuse victim is portrayed in this illustrative photo. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The Health Ministry has yielded to pressure from the Knesset Status of Women and Gender Equality Committee and ordered hospitals to stop destroying evidence of rape.

“It shows that it is possible to bring about a change,” said Chairman MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List). “In days like this, such things cannot be taken for granted.”

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The committee continued on Monday to discuss the need to collect and preserve forensic evidence from victims of sexual assault, an issue it began deliberating in January 2017. At present, hospitals often destroy samples taken from rape victims within three months, whether or not a complaint has been filed with the police.

Forensic evidence including skin cells, hair, blood, semen and other materials is used to investigate sex crimes. At present, if the victim submits a complaint immediately to the police, the samples are transferred to the police and stored in forensic laboratories. Health Ministry regulations only require that samples be kept for three months, even though such evidence can be used in future complaints, subject to the consent of the injured party.

But the committee found, after a request was made by MK Michal Biran to Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman that in practice, the collection, preservation and destruction of samples are carried out unevenly and inconsistently in various hospitals and that the ministry does not properly monitor or supervise the matter.

A rape victim who said she was surreptitiously given a “rape drug” to confuse her before she was assaulted told the committee: “I did everything right. I got to the hospital after I was drugged and before I lost consciousness. Those who came with me insisted that they do all the tests to prove that I was drugged, and they did. Three weeks later, I discovered that my samples had never arrived at the lab, and the police made it clear to me that I needed these tests to proceed with the procedure. When I asked to send them to another hospital I was told they did not know where they were.”

Touma-Sliman said, “If the Knesset determines that the statute of limitations on sexual offenses is seven years, then the evidence must be kept for at least seven years and the victim’s right to complain should be preserved.”

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Biran added, “The role of a hospital is not to preserve evidence, which has to be kept elsewhere for a long time. If there is no alternate solution, one hospital must get a budget for this and store all kits in one place.”

Ministry representative Dr. Zohar Sahar Lavi commented, “We are now at the conclusion of formulating new guidelines on the subject. There are still open questions regarding the manner in which the evidence is kept. However, following the committee’s previous discussion, the hospitals have been instructed not to dump the evidence.”

Ayelet Unstein, head of the Police Crime Prevention Unit, also welcomed the ministry’s directive and said, “We are in favor of keeping the evidence at least until the end of the statute of limitations.”

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