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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the IHS sexual assault policy?

A: The Indian Health Service (IHS) sexual assault policy is published in the Indian Health Manual (IHM), Part 3, Chapter 29 Sexual Assault, February, 2018. The policy establishes uniform clinical care guidelines for adult and adolescent victims of sexual assault seeking services at an Indian Health Service (IHS)-operated hospital, to ensure their care is culturally sensitive, patient-centered, their needs are addressed, and the community response is coordinated. The policies also aid evidence collection for possible use in the criminal justice system response.

Q. Does the sexual assault policy apply to IHS clinics?

A: The IHS Sexual Assault Policy establishes uniform clinical care guidelines for patients 18 and older who present for sexual assault services at IHS hospitals, health centers, and health stations (hereafter referred to as facilities). All facilities providing sexual assault services will ensure that services are provided consistently and result in complete sexual assault medical forensic examinations and appropriate documentation.

When sexual assault services are not provided at the facility, local policies, protocols, and procedures will arrange for care through a system of referral, ideally located within two hours of the facility. The referral process includes centers that provide a higher level of care, employ trained Sexual Assault Examiners, and have access to appropriate forensic equipment.

Q. Who pays for a sexual assault examination?

A: IHS-eligible patients are able to receive sexual assault exams at no cost at IHS facilities. To view eligibility requirements for health benefits from the Indian Health Service, please visit the IHS For Patients FAQ page.

The Violence Against Women Act 2022 (VAWA 2022) is the most recent authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. VAWA 2013 clarifies that victims cannot be required to pay any out-of-pocket costs to obtain a medical forensic exam.

Q. Does the IHS policy allow victim advocates or another support person of the patient's choosing to be in the room at the time of the exam?

A: Yes, the IHS Sexual Assault Policy outlines that patients should be offered the support of a victim advocate or other support person of their choosing during the exam process.

Q. How do we get more information on on Forensic Healthcare?

A: For more information on Forensic Healthcare, please join the Forensic Healthcare LISTSERV.