Improvements to forensic examinations for victims of rape and sexual assault in Scotland are being considered.
Proposals to strengthen the medical treatment of victims are being consulted on by the Scottish Government, including provision for people who have not reported an incident to police.
The 12-week consultation is seeking views from health and justice organisations, medical professionals, charities and victims of sexual assault.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Improving healthcare services for victims of rape and sexual assault is a priority for the Scottish Government and we are committed to ensuring strategic leadership to help deliver that.
“We are clear everyone who needs it should have access to a forensic medical examination, wider healthcare interventions and support, whether or not they have reported the crime.”
Ahead of the consultation’s launch, chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood visited the Equally Safe Multi-Agency Centre in Edinburgh, which will provide services for child and adult victims of sexual abuse, due to open in 2019.
Speaking about the consultation, Ms Calderwood said: “The proposals for legislation will provide greater clarity around the statutory responsibility for delivering forensic medical services and will be informed by those with lived experience.
“The launch of this important consultation builds on the work of the Rape and Sexual Assault Taskforce, which was set up to provide more consistent access to services for victims, and the Equally Safe Strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls.”
Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “This consultation is an important step in improving services for anyone in Scotland who has been raped or sexually assaulted.
“The response someone receives immediately following a rape or sexual assault can make a huge difference – this consultation makes it crystal clear that our response needs to be trauma informed and based on what someone needs at that time.
“This should make a real difference to people’s lives.
“Whether to report to the police can sometimes be a difficult decision to make immediately following a rape or sexual assault.
“The proposal in this consultation to enable people to get a forensic examination even when they are unsure about reporting is so important.
“It means that potentially crucial evidence won’t be lost.”