Jessica Kreutzer, 25, reported being raped Aug. 8, 2008, in her Hays home.
After being interviewed by several law enforcement officers, she was told she needed to go to the hospital for an examination to collect evidence.
What followed, she said, was another major trauma.
Instead of going to nearby Hays Medical Center, Kreutzer had to travel an hour and a half to a hospital in Salina. The Salina hospital had specially trained sexual assault nurses who provide rape exams. The Hays hospital doesn’t.
Kreutzer was driven there by a counselor whom she didn’t know.
After a 6 1/2 hour examination, she got back in the car to head home, sick on medications that she had been given.
“You’ve already been violated once,” Kreutzer said, adding that the long drive for services just added to the ordeal.
Samantha Butler, who works with the Northwest Kansas Domestic and Sexual Violence Services of Hays, has driven many women to Salina for their exams. Butler, however, said some victims have refused to make the trip. That decision can reduce the prospects of bringing an attacker to justice because the sexual assault nurse examiners are specially trained to collect evidence and testify in court.
“It’s turning a two- or three-hour ordeal into a six-, seven-, eight-hour ordeal,” Butler said of the trip from Hays to Salina. “Women find it awkward. It’s that much longer until they get to shower, be with family and just end the day,” Butler said.
Because of the strong cocktail of drugs given to women, which includes medicine to stop sexually transmitted diseases, women sometimes get sick on the way home.
Butler said she has had to stop on the side of the road for women to vomit or have a bowel movement.
“It makes an already difficult situation that much worse,” she said.
The situation in Hays led to a community meeting and captured the attention of several groups, including the Kansas chapter of the National Organization for Women, a class at Fort Hays State University, and Christie and Curt Brungardt, the mother and stepfather of Jana Mackey, a Kansas University law school student who was killed in 2008 by a former boyfriend. The Brungardts have embarked on “Jana’s Campaign” to promote action that secures safety and justice for victims of domestic violence.
Jodi Schmidt, vice president and chief development officer of the Hays Medical Center, said the hospital doesn’t have specially trained nurses to do the exams because it is difficult for them to maintain proficiency.
But after the meeting on the issue earlier this year, Schmidt said, the hospital has recently decided to change course. She said Hays Medical Center hoped to have the specially trained nurses in place within the next two or three months.
But the problem of getting sexual assault victims to exams without having to travel long distances is an issue in other areas of the state, even in Lawrence.
In September, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said Lawrence Memorial Hospital turned away two college-age victims and referred them to a Topeka hospital because there weren’t enough sexual assault nurses available. LMH officials have since said they are getting more nurses trained to perform rape exams.
Joyce Grover, director of the legal and policy division at the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, said getting more nurses trained to do the forensic examination requires community support.
“So much is local community support,” Grover said. “In Hays, local community members have gotten very active around this issue and are trying to make something happen,” she said.
Kreutzer, the woman from Hays who went to Salina for her examination, said communities need to make it easier for victims to receive services as close to home as possible.
“They need to look at this situation and say, ‘What if this was my daughter?’” Kreutzer said.