Treat rape victim with respect: Nimhans panel

Treat rape victim with respect: Nimhans panel

The Justice Verma Committee, which recently submitted its report on ‘amendments to criminal law’ to the Prime Minister, has incorporated an appendix dealing with psychological interventions in sexual assault recommended by a team of psychiatrists from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore.

The recommendations mentioned under Appendix 8 in the report calls for a counsellor to be present during the interview/ medical examination of the person assaulted/raped. The report says the counsellor should ensure that the medical examiner follows a semi-structured interview, which begins with an open-ended question such as “please tell us in your own words what happened.”

Doctors from Nimhans have suggested that the interviewer develop a rapport with the survivor and observe her non-verbal cues and more importantly be non-judgmental about her.

The report has recommended that the survivor be treated with respect and that a health/ social organisation worker accompany her in the absence of a friend or family member. Psychiatrists have said that it should always be remembered that the survivors have varying ways of coping with sexual assaults and those who do not appear distressed may be in denial or use forgetting as a coping mechanism.

It should be ensured that the survivor receives treatment for short-term and long-term consequences. Nimhans director P Satish Chandra said, “Although the committee report has recommended for a positive change in handling sexual assault cases, we need to see how the recommendation will be incorporated into legislation.”

Dr Prabha S Chandra, professor of psychiatry, Nimhans, one of the doctors in the team, said they have recommended creation of a ‘separate cadre’ that would accompany the survivor as a supporter and help in legal redress. Dr Shekhar Seshadri, professor of child psychiatry, Nimhans, said sexual assault was not an isolated case; it includes child sexual abuse and trafficking in girls. He said the report had recommended incorporation of gender sensitivity lessons for students at an early age in schools.

The Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, Nimhans, released a draft tool kit on ‘Psychological interventions for women survivors of partner violence and sexual assault,’ on the occasion. Nimhans will take up ‘security mapping’ for the safety of women and has sought public participation in strengthening the system. The mapping mainly has CCTV cameras and alarm bells installed in places where women generally feel unsafe.

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