Archive for April, 2011
Today we have a guest post from Rebecca Carman, LCSW, a social worker with the Elmhurst Hospital Center SAFE program in New York City. Identifying a need to compile and share the best practices for responding to sexual assault victims in the hospital, she created The SAFE Coordinator’s Handbook in 2010. The handbook has been used by professionals across the country and internationally to better respond to victims of sexual violence. Today, the author shares the impetus behind the handbook and what went into making it happen.
I came to work at Elmhurst Hospital Center as Coordinator of the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Program in 2004. As you may know, these Emergency Department-based programs ensure state-of-the art care for victims of sexual assault.
My role was to coordinate the 24-hour SAFE on-call team, take care of basic program administration and serve as in-house consultant. Gaining momentum nationwide for the past decade or so, SAFE programs—also known as SANE or SAE programs–are a welcome advance: they ensure sensitive and expert care to victims of sexual assault, reduce waiting times and strive for restoration of safety and control to patients.
Elmhurst Hospital, my then-new place of employment, is one of the eleven facilities comprising the New More >
Many of us are aware of the personal costs of sexual violence. We may have seen friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues navigate their lives in the in the aftermath of sexual assault or abuse. Maybe a roommate had a lock put on her bedroom door in order to manage her fear, a co-worker may have become distracted at work and seemed depressed after a “bad date” or someone in our own family may stop attending family events to avoid his perpetrator. People that experience this type of abuse suffer in varied and disparate ways, but there is a commonality in that harm is done and the personal costs are steep.
A new document produced and distributed by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence outlines some other costs of sexual violence. The document addresses the economic, health care and systems costs associated with sexual violence. It notes that:
- Each rape costs approximately $151,423;
- In 2008, violence and abuse constituted up to 37.5% of all health care costs, or up to $750 billion total;
- Rape is the most costly of all crimes to its victims, with total estimated costs at $127 billion a year (excluding the cost of child sexual abuse);
- Sexual abuse interferes with women’s More >
In another step forward for rape kit reform, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) announced this week that they have sent all their untested rape kits to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department crime lab for testing, the Santa Monica Daily Press reports.
The state of the SMPD’s backlog of untested rape kits came to light in a 2009 report by Human Rights Watch entitled “Testing Justice: The Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City and County.” The report focused on the backlog in police and crime lab storage facilities in Los Angeles City, Los Angeles County, and the 47 cities within the county, of which Santa Monica is one. It found that there were as many as 485 untested rape kits that had been collected since 1996 in the Santa Monica Police Department’s storage facility were not tested.
“We are pleased to say that we zeroed in, made sure all kits were sent out and now we are clear of any backlog,” SMPD Captain Wendy Shirley said.
Prior to 2009, the SMPD did not send every rape kit to the crime lab for testing. The new policy of the department is to send every kit booked into evidence to the crime lab within 72 of More >
Last week, at the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, federal education officials went to work to raise awareness of and improve the response to sexual assault on college campuses. The focus of their efforts is to implement effective prevention and response strategies.
In a press release issued last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that, “every school would like to believe it is immune from sexual violence but the facts suggest otherwise…Our first goal is prevention through education. Information is always the best way to combat sexual violence. Our larger goal is to raise awareness to an issue that should have no place in society and especially in our schools.”
In an investigation in 2010, NPR found that, “colleges almost never expel men who are found responsible for sexual assault and that often, as a result, it is the victim who drops out of school.” While the Department of Education’s campaign doesn’t introduce new regulations to combat that problem, it aims to reinforce those that already exist, reminding schools that they have a responsibility to the 20 percent of college women who become victims of sexual assault on campus.
On Friday, April 8, the US Department of Justice announced the two recipients of an action research grant targeting untested rape kits. Houston, Texas and Wayne County, Michigan will be receiving $176,000 and $200,000, respectively to, “identify underlying reasons why sexual assault kit evidence is not tested and to develop practices to improve the criminal justice response to sexual assault.”
The funding, administered by the National Institute of Justice, a branch of the US Department of Justice, is the first of a two phase project. According to the press release:
In Phase I, for which this FY 2010 funding was awarded, researchers will team up with representatives from the police department, crime lab, prosecutor’s office and community-based victim services organizations in Wayne County and Houston. The teams will develop a strategy to tackle their problems, with special emphasis on how and when to notify victims when their SAK (which may be years old) is going to be tested.
In Phase II of the project, NIJ seeks to provide additional funds to help the two jurisdictions implement their strategies and evaluate their effectiveness. NIJ anticipates that these two projects will produce transportable lessons and strategies for other jurisdictions experiencing similar problems.
Joyful Heart is thrilled More >