Changes coming to where, how rape exams are conducted - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Changes coming to where, how rape exams are conducted in Nashville

(WSMV file photo) (WSMV file photo)

A multi-agency initiative will be announcing plans to expand rape kit testing across Nashville, giving survivors of sexual assault more choices to seek help after a rape.

Rape exams in Davidson County, which are currently conducted only at Nashville General Hospital by trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, or SANE, will soon be offered at the Sexual Assault Center of Nashville as well.

Trained SANE personnel from Nashville General will travel off-site to conduct the exams.

Experts say receiving a medical rape exam is the first thing a rape survivor should do.

The doctor or nurse is essentially collecting evidence that will be crucial in court, if the victim decides to prosecute.

"We know 90 to 95 percent of rape survivors don't need a hospital," said Tim Tohill, president of the Sexual Assault Center. "So one option is to come here and receive the same quality of care, by the same highly-trained nurses."

Tohill said an off-site location will help streamline the exam process and possibly help adult and child victims feel more comfortable reporting the crime to police.

Earlier this year, Channel 4 reported that more male victims of rape are coming forward.

"Through this collaboration, our team has also become certified in male sexual assault exams, which has previously been unavailable in the region," said Veronica Elders, Director of Patient Throughput at Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. "The multi-agency group studied the approaches of other cities and found that when survivors’ treatment was in a dedicated space, sexual assault reporting increased because individuals were more willing to seek the care they need. We are hopeful Nashville will experience a similar improvement."

The initiative also includes offering rape exams in more area hospitals.

The collaboration is a result of Mayor Megan Barry's creation of a team to improve the rape exam process toward a survivor-centered approach.

Dr. Bill Paul, the director of the Metro Public Health Department, is the head of the committee.

"Nashville General Hospital is proud of its history of supporting survivors of sexual assault, particularly in the first critical hours after what is likely the most traumatic event of their lives," Elders added. "We are pleased to build on that work by taking a lead role as a part of a multi-agency initiative, spearheaded by the Metro Public Health Department, to provide survivors in the greater Nashville area with more options. " 

Agencies include the District Attorney’s Office, the Metro Nashville Police Department, the Tennessee Coalition for Domestic Violence and the Sexual Assault Center. 

Sexual Assault Center employees and volunteers will assume the therapy and advocacy-related needs of survivors.

The nonprofit organization will raise funds to build the new facility and plans to have it up and running within the next six months.

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