Do Nurses Know How to Do Rape Exams?
According to the New York Times, in Las Vegas, there is only one hospital where a victim of rape can go to have a rape kit completed. In that hospital, there are only two nurses with the proper training to do the exam. Having no medical personnel trained in rape procedures is not unusual, even in a city of two million people and a city that is known for its high rates in sexual attacks and domestic violence.
Today, there is a very critical shortage of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) in the United States, and low numbers of trained and certified sex examiners are much more common in rural areas.
Rapes examinations are victimizing. They take a tremendous amount of time, up to six hours, and these exams are best when they are completed almost immediately after the assault.
Unfortunately, time is of the essence, and if the medical facility is far away, the victim may choose to keep the assault private. The amount of forcible rapes in 2016 was 95,730. This number is up from 85,593 rapes committed in 2010. Research also shows that 80% of most rapes in the U.S. go unreported.
How could that be? Well, because there is little to no consideration from the medical community and police, victims do not feel safe.
Police departments do not receive rape kits until they are sealed and certified by a nurse. A certified nurse who can a rape kit is trained to properly collecting and preserve forensic evidence. These nurses also know how to testify in court. Certified SANE nurses are emotionally sensitive, and they finish their examinations rapidly and with compassion. However, these nurses are few and far between.
The Government Accountability Office in a 2016 report claimed that although many states receive federal grants to address issues related to sexual assaults, there is little to no money spent on training sexual assault forensic examiners. Nevada is one of the states that spent the least amount of money on this type of forensic training, even when there are 70-80 rapes monthly.
Nevada isn’t the only state with significant problems with rape examination.
Janine O'Connor's story: A sexual assault victim who did not get the proper help.
Trigger: This section contains information about sexual assault and violence. The following may be triggering to certain survivors.
Janine O'Connor* woke up naked and in a stranger’s apartment. She felt numb, afraid and knew she had been assaulted. In the emergency room that morning, the attending nurse was sympathetic but had no idea how to use a rape kit.
O'Connor said, “It’s a little weird to hear, ‘Oh this is the first time that I’m doing this. It makes you feel very unimportant. Like what had happened to me wasn't a big deal, so why doesn't it require someone who really knows what they’re doing?”
In Illinois, there are more than 196,000 registered nurses, but there are only 32 nurses in the state certified by the International Association of Forensic Nurses to work with adult sexual assault victims. And, only twelve of these nurses examiners are certified to treat sexually abused children.
*: Names have been changed for the purpose of this article.