Male examiners carry out more than half of Dumfries and Galloway’s sexual assault and rape forensic examinations


More than half of sexual assault and rape forensic examinations in Dumfries and Galloway have been carried out by male doctors – increasing the distress for women victims.

In many cases, individuals are not being seen within the three-hour examination guidelines as set out by the Scottish Government.

The situation has been described as “very concerning” by Rape Crisis Scotland which underlines the significant impact this can have on women following a harrowing attack.

Sandy Brindley (left), chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “The biggest issue rape survivors raise with us about forensic examinations is how distressing it can be being examined by a male doctor, often in the hours immediately after being raped.

“There have been improvements in responses in recent years but it’s very concerning that less than half of survivors see a female examiner.

“Delays in examinations can also cause enormous distress as someone can’t wash until the examination takes place.

“The least someone deserved after being through such a traumatic experience is an examination by a female doctor, when they wish this, that takes place in comfortable surroundings and where they don’t have to wait for hours without being able to wash.”

The examination figures emerged at the NHS Dumfries and Galloway board meeting last week when plans for service improvement were discussed.

Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland.
Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland.

A report tabled at the meeting showed that there were 22 sexual forensic examinations in the region in 2020 – and just 45 per cent of these were carried out by a female examiner.

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Sixteen cases occurred at night in the out-of-hours period while the remaining six happened during daytime.

While these issues still have to be addressed, the region’s Sexual Assault Response Co-ordination Services (SARCS) are working flat-out to improve the situation.

An old model of a handful of practicing GPs carrying out the forensic examinations is no longer sustainable and investment is being made available to provide a more robust service that meets government criteria and also provides proper out-of-hours cover. Health board members were told that steady progress is being made and new measures should be in place by April 1.

Alison Solley, NHS locality manager for Nithsdale, said: “We had a meeting with the Scottish Government taskforce representatives last week and they are happy with the progress we are making.”

She explained that adverts have been posted for more forensically-trained nurses, which have had a good response, and that several doctors have also expressed an interest in doing the work.

Meanwhile, an independent company which runs forensic and sexual examination work across Scotland, including Ayrshire, could be contracted as a back-up plan to ensure the delivery of an out-of-hours service.

“We’re hopeful that we won’t ever have to use this,” said Alison w. “But we may well have to go down that route while we establish our local model.”

A spokesperson for Dumfries and Galloway Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Support Center said: “There have been improvements in responses to carrying out sexual offense examinations in recent years. However, there are still issues meeting the three-hour national requirement and this is mainly due to the rurality of some locations within Dumfries and Galloway. In all cases, police and other agencies involved strive to make sure the victim is fully supported and arrangements are made to accommodate an examination at the earliest convenience.

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“The survivor’s emotional needs are a priority, and the work is trauma informed.”




www.dailyrecord.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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