Sexual Assault Victim Reform

As soon as a rape victim enters Medical Center's emergency room Bobby Moore sees to their privacy. The emergency room director explains, "We try to get them away from the public area. We take them to a private room."

In most hospitals the next step is waiting for police and social workers. "We wouldn't exam them until they are available in the ER because we have to to deal with chain of command with the evidence," says Moore.

But these delays may soon be prevented. Medical Center is planning to train ER nurses to become certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). During the lengthy exam there will be someone readily available to guard the evidence, but more importantly, never leave the victims' side.

Chief Nursing Officer, Rhonda Tubbe says, "We need them to have education number one, but number two a place where they feel comfortable that their privacy will be taken care of and considered and to assure them at all times they're in control."

That control could be extended if lawmakers allow hospitals to provide rape victims emergency contraception.

Ob-gyn Dr. David Vineyard says a common misconception must be cleared up. "No, it doesn't cause abortions--it prevents fertilization." Vineyard notes that, "Very rarely do these people want to have the possibility of pregnancy looming over their head as a constant reminder of their assault."

He supports emergency contraception, but wonders how much the bill will accomplish. "I'm not sure that's really going to accomplish anything not already being done."

The idea is controversial, but one doctors use routinely by following a simple formula with common birth control pills. Vineyard does support a standardization of sexual assault care.

Tubbe and Moore are co-coordinators of Medical Center's SANE program. They're hopeful for success. The certification is lengthy and costly. Some hospitals have pursued the certification, but never completed it. Others have certified staff, only to have them move away.

Just the attention being given to sexual assault victim reform is encouraging to the staff that wants to be assured that when rape victims leave their emergency room they can begin the healing process.