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Kerala HC lays down protocol to help victims of sexual assault

- July 25, 2022

Thiruvananthapuram, July 25 (BPNS)

Sexual assault victims will now have constant access to the Victim Liaison Officer (VLO) and to the ‘One Stop Crisis Centre’. Thanks to the Kerala High Court, it directed the state government to make available the same 24 hours a day. The court has also laid down certain protocols to be followed in the case of a complaint regarding sexual attack or child abuse without exception.

It was Justice Devan Ramachandran who listed the 10-point protocol while considering a writ petition of a sexual assault victim. The victim had approached the court with various allegations against the police and law enforcement agencies, including that she was forced to settle and compromise with the perpetrator.

“The One Stop Crisis Centre is directed to offer not merely psychological assistance to the victim, but also legal support. This shall continue as long as the victim requires, or until the trial is completed. Measures should be taken to continually publicize the toll-free number 112 as an emergency support system. Calls made to toll-free numbers like 112 or 100 will only be attended and responded to by well sensitized and trained personnel, who will make sure that the victim is given sufficient support from the inception, until the time she/he requires it thereafter,” reads an excerpt of the protocol laid down by the court.

The court mandates that on intimation of a sexual assault or child abuse being received through an emergency support system, the jurisdictional police station, will take immediate steps to contact the victim either personally or through the phone without, however, summoning him/her to the police station.

It has also been stipulated that simultaneous to the registration of FIR, the investigating officer should assign a Victim Liaison Officer, who shall then contact the victim immediately so that he/she will feel safe and protected, being sure of such support.

The court while directing the Registry to forward a copy of its judgment to the State Police Chief for further actions also instructed to immediately incorporate the directions via circular or instructions to all the Station House Officers for necessary compliance.

Earlier, the court observed that the aftermath of a sexual offense involves a cluster of acute and chronic physical and physiological effects and it is crucially important that the victim receives comprehensive care and support.

It also noted that the protocol is for the empowerment of the victim – being gender neutral – to approach the law enforcement agencies and obtain succor and support in the initial stages of extreme fear, terror, and despondency.