World Health Organization Provides Protocols for Medical Treatment of Refugee Rape Victims
Friday, June 17, 2005 11:45 AM

The Department of Reproductive Health and Research (RHR) of the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a report entitled “Clinical Management of survivors of rape.” The report provides protocols for health professionals working in emergency situations with refugees and internally displaced persons who have been raped. The guide takes into account available resources, materials, drugs and national policies, allowing health professionals to develop a “situation specific” health care protocol for each emergency.

Recognizing rape as a form of sexual violence, a public health problem and a human rights violation, the WHO maintains that governments have a legal obligation to ensure that “quality health services equipped to respond to sexual violence are accessible to all” people. The report offers an eight-step procedure that includes how to make preparations to offer medical care to rape survivors, prepare the survivor for an examination, take history, collect forensic evidence, perform the examination, and offer treatment, counseling and follow-up care to the victim. A separate section of the report outlines protocols for care of children who are victims of rape.

The report focuses on a survivor’s “right to self-determination,” requiring that medical professionals not pressure rape survivors into submitting to an examination against their will. In order to allow the victim to make informed choices, the report requires that medical care providers offer the survivor appropriate information about the examination and treatment. Other rights identified in the report include the right to health, information, non-discrimination, human dignity, privacy, and confidentiality.

Although the guide was created to adapt to each emergency, the WHO instructs health professionals to comply with certain requirements in every situation. A rape survivor should be able to access care in one health facility that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each community member should be informed of why rape victims would benefit from medical care, what services are available, where the services are provided, and that they will be treated with dignity by each medical professional. The report also includes sample checklists and medical forms for use by health care providers working in emergency settings.

To view the report, click here.