"INTERNET LAW BOOK REVIEWS", Provided by Rob Jerrard LLB LLM

Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists


Forensic Gynaecology - Towards better care of the female victim of sexual assault

Author: Edited by Maureen Dalton

ISBN: 1900364840

Publishers: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Price £40 RRP UK

Publication Date: 2004


According to the British Crime Survey 2002, one in 20 women is the victim of a sexual assault. In the year 2000, this equated to approximately 61,000 women.  The majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police and domestic or spousal rape is even less commonly reported.  We do know, however, that women who are the victims of sexual assault are more likely to use the health service so medical practitioners, will see them in their day-to-day practice.

To reflect the needs of all potential forensic examiners, the book has a multidisciplinary basis and has been designed on two levels.  To assist the doctor with little or no knowledge on the subject, part of each chapter is devoted to an explanation of the relevant facts.  Each topic covered has areas of debate and some of the controversies are explored in the second part of each chapter, subtitled ‘the dilemmas’, where we have endeavoured to provide a stimulus for discussion. The aim of this book is to be of interest to both the experts and the newcomer to the subject.

The book includes the most up to date information, including the very recent changes to the laws relating to sexual offences. Differences between the new Sexual Offences Act 2003, which comes into force in May 2004, and previous legislation are included in a chapter by a senior QC.

The first two chapters, 'The Law of Rape' and 'The Police Response', give a good explanation  of the changes that have occurred with the way the law deals with defining what rape is, and the way police deal with the matter.

Sexual offences including rape are covered in police training and will be found discussed in Blackstone’s Police Manuals and other books for the Police now published by Oxford University Press.  There are now books published on the new Act by most major law publishers eg Sexual Offences, the New Act, Richard Card, Jordans, Sexual Offences Act 2003, a Current Law Statute Guide, Sweet & Maxwell, Blackstone's Guide to the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

This book will be essential reading for anyone with an interest in the care of women who have suffered sexual assault, from doctors and police forensic teams to those in the legal profession who need to know more about the care of women complainants.

Contents Section One:
Rape: the facts and the dilemmas,
The law of rape,
The police response,
Avenues of presentation,
Consent,
Taking a history,
The general examination,
The sexual assault medical examination kit,
Genital examination,
Post-examination issues,
The statement,
The doctor in court,
Supporting the victim,
Section Two:
Domestic violence: the overlap with rape,
Impact of domestic violence in obstetrics,
Impact of domestic violence in gynaecology,
Child sexual abuse and, The Doctor’s Role.

The contributors to this book include Judith Common Superintendent Northumbria Police, Ruby Hamid Barrister, Gillian Jones, Barrister, Mary Newton, Senior Forensic Scientist Metropolitan Police, Helen Reeves, DBE Chief Executive Victims Support, Deborah Rogers, Principal Forensic Medical Examiner for Thames Valley Police and Peter Rook QC, Barrister.


From the Forward of the book:

Rape is a topic that is not covered in the undergraduate curriculum and it is only just starting to enter the postgraduate curriculum.  While male rape is a serious and under-reported crime, this book covers forensic gynaecology specifically and so male sexual assault is not discussed.  This is not meant to deny the issue of male rape; indeed, much of the book is pertinent to the forensic examination of the male complainant.

According to the British Crime Survey 2002,' one in 20 women is the victim of a sexual assault. In the year 2000, this equated to approximately 61000 women.  The majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police and domestic or spousal rape is even less commonly reported. We do know, however, that women who are the victims of sexual assault are more likely to use the health service so we, as medical practitioners, will see them in our day-to-day practice.  Optimising the care of the victim of sexual assault is bound to alleviate some of the subsequent health problems that she may experience. As a gynaecologist, I have a duty to try to provide the best health care to women.  This includes ensuring that the medical needs of the victim of rape are recognised in conjunction with providing support for complainants at all stages of the process of clinical and forensic management.

If we are to improve our response to rape cases we need to improve the levels of communication between the forensic medical examiner, the general practitioner, counsellors, police, Crown Prosecution Service and, not least, the complainant herself.  It is with this in mind that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists arranged to hold study days on the topic of forensic gynaecology.

To reflect the needs of all potential forensic examiners, this book has a multidisciplinary basis and has been designed on two levels.  To assist the doctor with little or no knowledge on the subject, the first part of each chapter is devoted to an explanation of the relevant facts.  Each topic covered has areas of debate and some of the controversies are explored in the second part of each chapter, subtitled ‘the dilemmas', where we have endeavoured to provide a stimulus for discussion.  The aim of this book is to be of interest to both the experts and the newcomer to the subject.

The Government has just reformed the laws relating to sexual offences and Peter Rook, Gillian Jones and Ruby Hamid discuss these changes in Chapter 1.  It has been a Herculean task for them to rewrite the chapter so quickly.  The act was only passed at the end of November 2003.

There is a continuum involving rape which also includes child sex abuse and domestic violence and so these equally unacceptable forms of violence against women are also discussed.  The main focus is on the management of the woman who discloses that she has been raped.  The term complainant has been used to emphasise that it is the role of the court and not the doctor to decide if she is a victim of rape.

One of the reasons why this is such a challenging area in which to work is the dual role of the examiner to look after the health needs of the complainant at the same time as collecting and often interpreting forensic evidence.  We are constantly looking for ways of improving evidence gathering.  The forensic examiner is ever mindful of the welfare of the complainant and yet must fulfil another dual role of remaining impartial, although empathetic, towards to the woman.


LINKS

"Internet Law Book Reviews" Copyright Rob Jerrard