April 18, 2016

Ayotte, Murray, Whitehouse, Franken: Report Shows Need for Trained Forensic Examiners for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Report Highlights Challenges with Ensuring Access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners

WASHINGTON, D.C. – US Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Al Franken (D-MN) today responded to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report they requested that details several concerning issues related to the availability of trained sexual assault forensic examiners to sexual assault survivors. The report found that while data on the number of examiners nationwide and in states is limited, the number of trained examiners does not meet the need for exams, especially in rural areas.

“This report proves that we have much more work to do in ensuring that the necessary support system exists for survivors of sexual assault,” said Senator Kelly Ayotte. “Our health care systems and other stakeholders must play a more active role in supporting the infrastructure necessary to train and retain qualified sexual assault nurse examiners so that when a survivor seeks care in their time of need, they aren’t faced with unnecessary obstacles or turned away due to a lack of available trained examiners.”

“When a survivor goes to a hospital and seeks treatment for sexual assault, she deserves to be given respect, compassion, and a commitment to helping her get justice—and it is so important that hospitals have staff on hand who are trained to offer that kind of support ,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Unfortunately, the report we are releasing today shows that too often this isn’t the case—and instead, survivors get care that may not meet their needs or help them hold perpetrators accountable. This has got to change, and I’m going to continue pushing for better access and higher quality care for survivors of sexual assault in Washington state and across the country.”

“This report makes clear we need to do more to ensure support systems for sexual assault victims have the right personnel in place,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Our hospitals need more resources to train qualified sexual assault nurse examiners properly so victims have access to quality care and law enforcement has access to evidence of serious crimes.”

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve safe and timely examinations done by properly trained professionals,” said Senator Franken. “Unfortunately, this report shows that we are falling woefully short in delivering those services. I am going to use this report to demonstrate why we need to press for substantial improvement in securing access to justice and necessary resources for survivors.”

Senator Ayotte originally requested the report with former Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) in May 2014.  In November 2014, Senator Whitehouse joined the request and Senators Franken and Murray joined shortly thereafter.

“On the basis of literature GAO reviewed as well as interviews with experts and state officials, data on the number of examiners nationwide and in selected states are limited or unavailable. However, officials in all six selected states told GAO that the number of examiners available in their state did not meet the need for exams, especially in rural areas,” the report reads. “For example, officials in Wisconsin explained that nearly half of all counties in the state do not have any examiners available. In health care facilities where examiners are available, they are typically available in hospitals on an on-call basis, though the number available varies by facility and may not provide enough capacity to offer examiner coverage 24 hours, 7 days a week.”

The report can be read in its entirety here.


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