County to explore increasing availability of domestic violence exams to help crime victims

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – The Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger directing county departments to make domestic violence exams more readily-available for victims of crime.

“In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s critical that we provide improved services and justice for victims,” Supervisor Barger said. “By increasing the availability of forensic exams for those experiencing domestic violence, we can address this growing threat to public safety.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office sees an average of 11,000 domestic violence cases per year, which is roughly 200 cases each week. The County of Los Angeles serves these victims by offering shelter, counseling, legal and health services. However, there are significant barriers in the initial step of completing a hospital exam. Under current law, hospitals are only reimbursed for the forensic medical-legal examinations of sexual assault victims and not domestic violence victims.

New developments in technology, such as Touch DNA and advanced software imaging, now allow forensic nurses to collect the suspect’s skin cells in cases involved with strangulation by swabbing the victim’s neck and fingernail scrapings. Additionally, advances such as Secured Digital Forensic Imaging Camera System allow the forensic nurse to take photos and see bruising not visible to the naked eye.

The Board of Supervisors will receive a report back on the feasibility of covering costs for these exams countywide in 120 days.

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