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Archive for Sunday, December 27, 2009

Advocates seek rape exams closer to home

Victims’ long drives to have evidence collected prolongs trauma

December 27, 2009

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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.

Promoting change

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.

Community support

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.

Comments

somebodynew 4 years, 3 months ago

maik_me I forgot to mention, I have years of dealing with ERs, and I know that is the way things used to work - whoever was working did what needed done. Legal exceptions for evidence collection has changed to where that system is no longer seen as "best procedure" and will be challenged by almost all defense attorneys.

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somebodynew 4 years, 3 months ago

I actually do understand how SANE works. At least here they have to have specialized training ($$$) and cannot continue with regular duties and someone has to be called in extra or someone else has to cover their regular duties (more $$$), and they prefer to have the special exam equipment (again $$$). While I think it would be ideal if every hospital was capable of being able to handle this whenever needed, in smaller communities I also understand that it is not feasible.

Also understand one of the First things the defense attorney will look for is any way to dispute the evidence present. Any suggestion the evidence wasn't collected correctly is a chance to place a doubt in One jurors mind, and that is all it takes sometimes.

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maik_me 4 years, 3 months ago

new, You've obvoiusly have absolutely no idea what happens in an ER. The existing nurses could be trained and on call. Its called SANE training.

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somebodynew 4 years, 3 months ago

maik_me,

The one with the moronic response if you. You obviously have actually never dealt with crime scene evidence. Just because hospitals have nurses on duty doesn't mean they can do the exam. For one, the exam takes hours to complete, then who is going to do that nurses work in the mean time. Second, completeing those exams requires specialized training and equipment, if you want a successful prosecution.

Look at it this way. There are a lot of cops out there, who most all can do a comptent job of lifting a fingerprint. But there are very little who can do the classification and identification of that print. That takes a lot of training and has to be done by those people. Now, a fingerprint can be easily preserved and sent to a lab. The evidence in a rape exam if fragile and can be lost if not handled correctly by trained personnel. As as harsh and uncaring as it sounds, costs (training and equipment) play into it.

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maik_me 4 years, 3 months ago

Moronic response faithful. Perhaps when people are murdered in these remote Kansas geographical places the police shouldn't take forensic evidence due to the "prohibitive hidden costs". Hospitals already have nurses on staff that they can provide with the additional rape exam training. Rape is a crime you idiot!

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Dan Eyler 4 years, 3 months ago

As much as Hays is a medium size city in Kansas, due to it's geographical location there are limits to what the hospital is able to take on. It sounds so simple to have an employee available on all shifts 24 hours a day. But the hidden costs are prohibitive. The fact that every hospital in Kansas doesn't have staffing and certifications to provide criminal rape exams doesn't make the hospital uncaring. The hospital has to make money too. Hospitals across America don't all provide the same level of Laboratory services, psychological services, deaf services, cardiology services, neurological services, radiology services, pediatric services, and the list goes on and on. The reasons they don't provide any one of these services is the same reason they don't provide rape exams. They can't afford it. They cant afford to staff every shift with a qualified staff member that meets all the requirements to handle the rape exam. So if you live in Hays or many other Kansas towns with community hospitals, you realize there are always medical services these hospitals simply cannot provide, whether it be a cardiac exam or a rape exam. With the changes coming in healthcare these services might become even more remote.

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