Karen Abowd: Knowing available resources if the unspeakable happens

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Editor’s note: The Nevada Appeal presented the Carson City Board of Supervisors, the mayor and city manager an opportunity for a column. Supervisor Jim Shirk will appear next Sunday.

The topic for this article is sexual assault; some things you may not know, what steps to follow and where to seek help.

Did you know: Washoe County Crime Lab has as long as seven days after a sexual assault has occurred to successfully gather evidence from a victim. Most programs recommend collecting evidence within 120 hours after an assault with the best opportunity for usable evidence within the first 24 hours, as gathering different types of forensic evidence has a range of time scales for testing accuracy.

A victim has the option to proceed as a Jane Doe for privacy purposes. A “Jane Doe Exam” enables a victim to have forensic evidence collected without revealing identifying information if the victim chooses to report the crime at a later date.

If victims are physically injured they should go to the hospital emergency room. If the sexual assault doesn’t involve other bodily injury Advocates to End Domestic Violence has the Sexual Assault Response Advocates (SARA) program with a 24-hour hotline 775-883-7654 to caringly guide the victim through the current protocol for sexual assault.

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) explains in the immediate aftermath of sexual assault, the most important thing is for the victim to get to safety. Whether it be the victim’s home, a friend’s home or with a family member, immediate safety matters most. It’s then vital to receive medical attention, and strongly recommended for the victim to receive a forensic exam. Showering should be avoided prior to this exam, if possible. A forensic medical exam may be performed at a hospital or other healthcare facility, by a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). This exam is complex and takes 2-4 hours. These exams are comprehensive because the victim deserves and needs special attention to ensure they are medically safe and protected. It’s important to collect evidence so if the victim chooses to report the crime to the authorities, they can access stored evidence. The victim does have the right to accept or decline any or all parts of the exam, but critical evidence may be missed if not collected or analyzed.

The sexual assault forensic exam kit or “SART exam” as it’s called is the collection of DNA and other forensic evidence, which is kept by the medical provider until picked up by law enforcement.

It’s then stored until the victim decides whether or not to pursue the case. A number of sites on each strand of DNA are analyzed to determine the unique profile of the individual. The chances of finding the same profile on two different people is extremely unlikely, less than 1 in 1 billion

The “Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005,” guarantees victims have access to a free exam or with a full reimbursement, even if the victim decides not to cooperate with investigators. The CCMC 9.09.020 further states, “Any costs incurred by a victim of a sexual assault for the examination of the victim when such examination is performed for the purpose of gathering evidence for possible prosecution, or for initial emergency care, shall be paid by the county consistent with NRS 449.244. Initial emergency care is determined to be that medical care provided in an emergency services area of a general hospital and to a maximum time limit of 24 hours. Initial emergency care must occur within 48 hours from the time sexual assault was reported to law enforcement officials. The city welfare department shall develop payment procedures and may consider extending the time limitations for payment if there are extenuating circumstances.”

If this should happen to you or someone you know, go to the emergency room at Carson Tahoe Hospital (CTH) or call the SARA 24-hour hotline (883-7654). Temporarily exams are performed in Reno but a dedicated SARA advocate will accompany and guide you through the process, provide follow up to include advocacy regarding bills, securing Victims of Crime Funds, counseling referrals, and accompaniment to court.

With a compassionate understanding “long term” solutions need to be found to provide sexual assault exams closer to home, our community pulled together to collaborate on solutions.

This team includes SART members, Carson City and Carson Tahoe Health officials. The group is thrilled to announce beginning in early fall, sexual assault exams will be conducted locally, in a dedicated and private examination room provided by Carson Tahoe Health. The location is on the second floor of the Specialty Medical Center at 775 Fleischmann Way.

This team includes SART members, Carson City and Carson Tahoe Health officials working hard to create a nearby option. An announcement is just weeks away as to where sexual assault exams are going to be conducted locally, in a more private setting. A healthy community recognizes a problem and solves it…. for the better…..if the unspeakable happens.

Carson City Supervisor, Ward 1 Karen Abowd, can be reached at KAbowd@carson.org or by calling 775-232-8626.


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