Dr. Linda Laras | Allied Professional Award
Director/Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner
Puerto Rico Health Justice Center
San Juan Bautista School of Medicine
Caguas, Puerto Rico
Dr. Linda Laras, a physician, has dedicated her life to providing comprehensive services to victims of sexual assault and defending their rights. A highly respected forensic gynecologist in Puerto Rico, Dr. Laras’ professionalism has advanced the medical field’s awareness and commitment to providing victims of sexual assault the care they need and deserve. She has been breaking barriers and advocating the importance of recognizing violence as a public health problem since 1990.
The first Director of the Puerto Rico Rape Crisis Center with a medical background, Dr. Laras wrote the Puerto Rican protocol for domestic violence and the first review in more than 10 years of the sexual assault protocol. She obtained funds to open six offices, and got the Puerto Rican government health insurance to cover services like case discussions and court participation, not covered by Victim Compensation. She led efforts to improve the rights of victims of sexual assault by overseeing the compliance, education, and implementation of hospital protocols.
Dr. Laras used her research and forensic investigation studies to develop novel methods and procedures to evaluate victims of sexual assault. She supports changes to the Puerto Rican penal code to best describe medical terms of sexual assault in public hearings in the Senate and House of Representatives. She is a voice for victims and supported the formation of the Puerto Rico Women’s Advocate Office.
Dr. Laras also originated a comprehensive, evidence-based, victim trauma-informed Puerto Rico Health Justice Center that is a lifeline for victims of sexual violence through disclosure, investigation, prosecution, trial, and healing. The Center has remained open and provided services, through hurricanes, earthquakes, and the pandemic, to over 750 victims—regardless of age, gender, nationality, or ethnicity.
At the Center, Dr. Laras employs staff with specialties in pediatrics, psychiatry, nursing, social work, forensic interviewing, epidemiology, psychology, health education, and law, offering intensive workshops for students and professionals on how to intervene and protect victims’ rights. Her projects have included Court Watch, Mobile Units, and a 24/7 helpline.
Dr. Laras is an advocate. She has participated in many radio and televised interviews, and has met with the Governor and Secretary of Justice of Puerto Rico to improve the rights of victims of sexual assault and offer her knowledge and advice. By standing with them in their time of need, Dr. Laras has increased victims’ confidence in the judicial system. She has received numerous accolades during her career, including the Ford Humanitarian of the Year Award, the FBI Civic Leadership Award, and recognition from both the House of Representatives and Senate of Puerto Rico.
2022 National Crime Victims' Service Awards Tribute Video
Watch this video to learn more about Dr. Linda Laras, 2022 recipient of the Allied Professional Award.