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Fewer Central Texas Hospitals Capable Of Conducting Forensic Rape Exams
Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 04:08 PM CDT
Fighting back to catch rapists is not only challenging due to lack of evidence. Just getting the evidence can be difficult for the victim. It's Patty Conner's job to help those victims, and she and her staff at Hope Alliance have been busy.
Hope Alliance is doing on average six sexual assault accompaniments every week. "About eight weeks ago we did 11 between Friday night and Monday morning," Conner told us.
The trauma of being raped may just be the beginning because taking steps to arrest the suspect can be challenging.
"There are only designated hospitals within communities that offer a forensic exam," Conner said. She's referring to the forensic exam that is commonly known as a rape kit.
In Williamson County, St. David's Round Rock Medical Center, is the only place it can be done. It hasn't always been that way. Conner says, "In the 14 years I've been here we've gone from having just the hospital in Taylor, to having four hospitals in Williamson County doing exams, and now we're back down to one."
It's a problem statewide. St David's Medical Center is the only designated hospital in Travis County. Bastrop victims are taken to Round Rock. Hays and Caldwell county victims are taken to Central Texas Medical Center in San Marcos. That could mean an hour drive or longer for an exam some say can be re-traumatizing itself. Even major metropolises like Dallas and Houston, only have a handful of hospitals where the kit can be performed.
The reason could be the cost.
"[At] the designated hospital there are likely to be specially educated highly trained forensic nurses as well as equipment, specialized equipment," Conner says. While it would be ideal, it's unrealistic to maintain that level of training and service at every hospital.
A bill co-authored by Texas State Senator Wendy Davis requires all hospitals with an emergency room to have a "basic" forensic kit if the victim is not up to travel to the designated hospital for the full exam. That begins in September.
Victims are encouraged to reach out for support. You can find help by clicking here - http://www.hopealliancetx.org/
By Melanie Lofton