Texas A&M, Texas Attorney General announce updated protocol for evidence collection

Texas Evidence Collection Protocol provides standardized guide for supporting sexual assault victims
August 21, 2019

In an unprecedented, joint effort with the Office of the Texas Attorney General, faculty with specialized training and education in forensic nursing at Texas A&M College of Nursing have formalized updates to the Texas Evidence Collection Protocol (TXECP). This document serves as the standardized guide for physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, nurses, sexual assault nurse examiners and fellow health care professionals to use in their mission to provide trauma-informed, evidence-based and patient-centered care across the entire state of Texas.

An advisory board of 22 subject matter experts including forensic nurses, attorneys, law enforcement officers, forensic scientists, social workers, and advocates was formed as part of the action team committed to revising the TXECP. Through roundtable discussions, peer review edits and interdisciplinary collaboration over a period of 18 months, a draft of the updated TXECP was created and presented for public comment.

Significant statutory changes from the past two legislative sessions also impacted the TXECP.  Changes include three key items: an extension in the time allotted for evidence collection; the tracking of evidentiary kits for survivors; and the retention of collection kits for non-reported sexual assaults for five years. These changes, as well as the public comments, were taken into consideration and included in the final document.

“Sexual assault is a vicious and traumatic crime, and it is important we provide victims with the empowerment they deserve to come forward and seek help. The new Texas Evidence Collection Protocol not only enhances the coordination of specialized care for victims of sexual assault, it also strengthens our collaborative criminal justice response. This new protocol will help ensure the perpetrators of these crimes end up behind bars,” said Attorney General Paxton. “My office is committed to ending sexual violence in Texas and stands ready to help bring violent offenders to justice and assist victims on their courageous journey toward healing.”

Having this web-based, standardized resource updated to reflect evidence-based practices and current legislative requirements offers much-needed guidance and reference for health care professionals serving patients who were either victimized or suspected of committing sexual assault.

“This protocol supports our commitment in leading positive change by sharing valuable insight so that we may provide patient-centered care while also collecting physical evidence that is admissible in court,” said Laurie Charles, MSN, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, CA-CPSANE, CHSE, clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Nursing and lead faculty member on the project. “Available with a simple download, this protocol outlines appropriate procedures to follow, provides forms to properly document injuries and clearly defines the collection kit requirements in the state of Texas, equipping health care professionals with a uniform guide to follow when serving this vulnerable population.”

Texas Evidence Collection Protocol Summary of Updates

  • Inclusion of a trauma-informed, evidence-based, patient-centered care model that provides recommendations on the identification, collection and preservation of physical evidence while minimizing physical and psychological trauma to patients who present after sexual assault;
  • Expanded special considerations and special populations sections;
  • Web-based document hyperlinking related resources, policies and definitions through Texas A&M University and the Attorney General of Texas;
  • Allowing on-demand printing of updated, uniform sexual assault evidence collection kit forms and diagrams;
  • Detailed listing of updated sexual assault evidence collection kit requirements for the state of Texas;
  • Inclusion of quick reference flowsheets differentiating processes for adult/adolescent and prepubertal child victims; and
  • Inclusion of statutory changes extending evidence collection time frame from 96 hours to 120 hours, the establishment of kit tracking for survivors and extension of non-reported sexual assault evidence collection kits to five years.

For additional information and to view the updated Texas Evidence Collection Protocol beginning August 21, visit nursing.tamhsc.edu/cefn.

— Kala McCain