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Rape kit exams not available on campus

University students now have to travel to the hospital to get a rape kit exam.

For more than 20 years, students were able to walk over to the previous University health center on Ridge Street, report a sexual assault and be seen by a nurse who does a rape kit examination, called a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.

Now, if students go to the Falcon Health Center on Wooster Street, they will be seen by a nurse, who will take information about the assault, and be referred to the Wood County Hospital to see a SANE, said Deb Busdeker, director of operations at the FHC.

“The key is that the work gets done, whether done here or at the hospital,” said Dick Sipp, associate vice president of Student Affairs and previous director of the Center for Student Health. “The key is to be able to effectively manage the care.”

While Sipp and others may not think it’s necessary to have a SANE on campus, Linda Reid, nursing section chair of the American College Health Association and associate director of nursing services at Oregon State University, said it’s “absolutely important.”

“The student health center is accessible on campus, [students are] familiar with it and it takes away the barriers of students seeking help after a sexual assault,” she said.

The statistics back up Reid’s opinion.

“One in five [women] are sexually assaulted while they’re in college,” Reid said.

If that holds true for the University, then out of the 8,147 women enrolled in fall 2012, approximately 1,629 women will be sexually assaulted during their time at the University.

Since 2010, there have been 41 forced sex offenses reported on campus, according to University Chief of Police Monica Moll and the 2013 Campus Security and Fire Safety Report.

There have been 40 adults arrested for forced sex offenses in Bowling Green since 2010, and 106 sexual offense reports filed since 2011, when the division began recording reports, according to Maj. Tony Hetrick, deputy chief of the Bowling Green Police Division.

About 2 percent of college women who are sexually assaulted report it, according to the most recent ACHA statistics from 2007. If this holds true for the University, then out of the possible 1,629 who are assaulted, about 32 will report.

The lack of a SANE at the FHC could discourage students from reporting, Reid said.

There may be a certain level of comfort to reporting rape or sexual assault and getting examined by a SANE at a university health center, Reid said. SANEs on campus also have experience that comes with being on campus everyday, knowing available resources and understanding students, she said.

The hospital can be intimidating for students, Reid said. The distance may also seem insurmountable.

Wood County Hospital is about 1.3 miles from the FHC. It’s a three-minute drive or approximately a 26-minute walk, according to Google Maps. Students can also take the University shuttle to the hospital, as the off-campus green north route goes there.

The distance, though it seems short, could discourage some students from reporting and getting a rape kit exam at all, said Mary Krueger, director of the Women’s Center.

“It’s a mile drive, if the student has no car, [that can be] a serious disincentive,” she said.

There are five SANEs at the Wood County Hospital and while Reid said going to the hospital may be intimidating for students, Dawn Hiser, Registered Nurse and SANE at Wood County Hospital, said she thinks students are comfortable going to the hospital for a rape kit exam.

“I think people as a whole are afraid to get checked out,” Hiser said. “Maybe because of their peers or their parents, maybe they’re ashamed or don’t want to deal, but they have to for the rest of their life.”

When people come in for a rape kit exam, Hiser talks to them for 20 minutes, gathering verbal information. During a rape kit exam, evidence is collected to be used in possible future legal proceedings. Victims are usually given a pelvic exam, photographs are taken of their body and an X-ray may be involved if the assault was violent, Hiser said.

While students can’t get the evidence collection part of reporting a sexual assault or rape done at the FHC, they can be seen there for other related treatment such as STD prevention, pregnancy tests, follow up appointments and treatment for physical injuries.

“It takes so much courage to go any place that my hope would be a rape victim would be treated wherever [they’re] brave enough to present,” Krueger said. “Everyone should have access in whatever way is the most comfortable for them.”

Though there has been thought of getting a SANE on campus, Busdeker said it hasn’t happened yet because “usually people come in the late evening or early morning hours” to report sexual assault when the health center isn’t open.

Reid began the SANE program at Oregon State University and said it sees one to two victims per month. Students usually come in for a rape kit exam in the afternoon at her university. The FHC is open until 5:30 p.m. on most nights. Hiser said most of her SANE cases come in at night.

Krueger said students could also come in a day or two later to be examined.

“I think [Busdeker’s] correct that that’s the most likely time for that to happen,” Krueger said. “But rape victims don’t necessarily go straight from the site to report it.”

There’s also the fact that the FHC is owned by the hospital and has the advantage and ability to be able to depend on it, Sipp said.

“It’s normal for them to not duplicate something here that may be [a few] miles away at the hospital,” Sipp said.

Though Sipp pointed the ownership out, Busdeker said that’s not the reason there isn’t a SANE at the FHC.

“BGSU had started to make the decision before [the FHC] ever happened,” she said.

Miami University, Ohio State University, Kent State University, University of Toledo and Ohio University don’t have SANEs at their health centers either.

There’s no data on how many college health centers have SANEs. But Reid said some may not have one because there needs to be a big enough health center to allow for SANEs.

The health center must be big enough to spare a physician or nurse when a SANE case comes in— sometimes for several hours.

“It’s less of a crucial concern whether there’s a SANE nurse as much as what is the level of sensitivity,” Krueger said.

The International Association of Forensic Nurses estimates that less than 10 percent of all emergency departments have a forensic nurse, with about 732 SANE programs in the U.S. and 1,286 SANEs, according to the “2012 SANE Program Snapshot.”

In 2012, there were 75 SANE nurses and 56 SANE programs in Ohio, according to the IAFN. In 2010, there were 3,699 rapes in Ohio, according to IAFN.

“Being a SANE is so much more than just knowing how to collect evidence,” Reid said. “It’s knowing how to support that person getting to the right resources … they really are ready to support a survivor emotionally as well as physically.”

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