New Wounds of Violence Reporting Statute in Nebraska Took Effect in July
In the 2018 legislative session, the Nebraska Unicameral passed a bill updating the Wounds of Violence reporting statute. It was signed into law, and became effective on July 19, 2018. The update made a few substantive changes that Nebraska hospitals must be aware of and implement in applicable hospital policies, procedures, and practices.
Expansion of Who Must Report
First, the law now requires wounds of violence reports from all “health care providers,” which the statute defines as licensed, certified, or registered physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or nurses. This is a significant change from the prior statute, which only required physicians to make wounds of violence reports.
Conditions Specific to Sexual Assault Reporting
Next, the law distinguishes reporting wounds of violence received in connection with, or as a result of, the commission of an actual or attempted sexual assault from reporting wounds of violence more generally. Generally, for sexual assault-related wounds of violence, the hospital must obtain the victim’s written consent to make a wounds of violence report to law enforcement. If the victim does not consent to the report, then the hospital must have the victim sign an acknowledgement that no report will be made.
There are two exceptions to the special treatment of sexual assault-related wounds of violence reporting. First, these conditions only apply to victims age 18 and older. Therefore, wounds of violence due to sexual assault of a minor (i.e. a patient under 18 years of age) must be reported even if the patient does not wish them to be reported. Next, these conditions do not apply to any victim who suffered a serious bodily injury or an injury inflicted with a deadly weapon as a result of sexual assault, and those injuries must be reported. As a result of these expectations, hospitals must make reports of sexual assault-related wounds of violence when the victim is under age 18 or, for victims age 18 and older, when the injury suffered is serious OR was inflicted by a deadly weapon.
Unless declined by the victim, hospitals are also required to refer victims who suffered sexual assault-related wounds of violence to an advocate; defined as an employee or volunteer of a domestic violence and sexual assault victim assistance program or similar organizations not affiliated with law enforcement or a prosecutor’s office.
Sexual Assault Evidence Collect Kit
In the course of treating the victim of an actual or attempted sexual assault, hospitals typically obtain physical evidence using a sexual assault evidence collection kit. In the event the victim of such a crime has consented to the police report, any kit must be provided to law enforcement along with the report.
If the victim declines to have a report filed, the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office has been tasked with developing an anonymous reporting protocol. The AG’s Office has until July of 2019 to develop the protocol. In the interim, the AG’s Office has set forth two options for victims who forego full police reports:
- Partial Report. Victims who do not want a full report to be made to law enforcement may make a partial report, which means that the sexual assault evidence collection kit is furnished to law enforcement with the victim’s name. In such a case, the collection kit would be tested for DNA. The victim would have the option to speak with law enforcement on a limited basis or to decide to convert the partial report to a full report.
- Anonymous Report. Victims who wish to remain completely anonymous will have the sexual assault evidence collection kit furnished to law enforcement on an anonymous basis. The collection kit will not be tested for DNA, but will be preserved in the event the victim later decides to make a partial or full report to law enforcement.