Violence and Injury Prevention

Guidelines for medico-legal care for victims of sexual violence

To build health workers' capacity to respond to cases of sexual assault in a sensitive and comprehensive manner, WHO has developed the Guidelines for medico-legal care for victims of sexual violence. The aim of these guidelines is to improve professional health services for all victims of sexual violence by providing:

  • health care workers with the knowledge and skills that are necessary for the management of victims of sexual violence;
  • standards for the provision of both health care and forensic services to victims of sexual violence;
  • guidance on the establishment of health and forensic services for victims of sexual violence.

Health professionals can use the guidelines as a day-to-day service document and/or as a tool to guide the development of health services for victims of sexual violence. The guidelines can also be used to prepare in-service training courses on sexual violence for health care practitioners and other members of multidisciplinary teams.

The guidelines will be useful for a range of professionals who provide care for victims of sexual violence: health service facility managers, medico-legal specialists, doctors and nurses with forensic training, district medical officers, police surgeons, gynaecologists, emergency room physicians and nurses, general practitioners, and mental health professionals. At a second level, the guidelines are of relevance to policy-makers in charge of health service planning and professional training within health ministries, and policy-makers with responsibility for developing guidelines for university curricula in the areas of medicine and public health.

These guidelines are meant to be adapted to specific local and national circumstances, taking into account the availability of resources and national policies and protocols.