Last Saturday we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Violence Against Women Act. This historic piece of legislation transformed the way we address domestic violence and sexual assault by expanding resources available to survivors like shelters and hotlines, improving law enforcements’ ability to pursue perpetrators, and guaranteeing access to sexual assault exams. It also directs resources toward preventing these crimes. At the same time we applaud the advances made in the last 20 years, news about NFL players accused of domestic violence seemed to be everywhere. It is a stark reminder of just how much work remains, but it started a new conversation about how we can prevent domestic violence, how it should be punished, why victims of abuse may not leave a relationship, and how we can best serve survivors. Read more about the conversation that started on Twitter here. Finally, the White House has launched a new initiative to help everyone learn more about how we all can help prevent sexual assault and support survivors of sexual assault. The program provides tools and resources to empower anyone to learn how to recognize and intervene in situations in which consent is not given and how to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses. It aims to transform the way bystanders respond to situations that could lead to sexual assaults. Learn more at http://itsonus.org.
It’s that time of year! Fall is starting (not that it feels like it in DC) and lots of students are headed back to school. NPR has an in depth look at how college and university campuses are handling sexual assault. Read the articles here. Also, don’t forget that the website notalone.gov, launched by the government to provide students with information about rights and resources for college sexual assaults.
Two articles highlight the differences between forensic nursing around the world. Nurses in the Boston area talk about the advanced training they receive to perform forensic exams. A nurse in South Africa discusses being the only sexual assault nurse in the region (in addition to her full-time job). In addition to providing medical care and DNA collection, she may counsel rape survivors for up to 6 months. One common theme–it’s a tough job, but it’s a rewarding job.
DCFNE’s Intimate Partner Violence Coordinator, Heidi Marcozzi, participated in a U.S. News & World Report story about the importance of forensic nursing. She discussed the services DCFNE provides for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and our work with partner groups. She also provided details about the special training and knowledge forensic nurses bring to the exams they perform. We’re very excited to see our work and the work of forensic nurses from all over the country highlighted in the national press! Read the article here.
After years of falling homicide rates, Washington, DC has seen a surge in homicides. Police chief Cathy Lanier and anti- domestic violence advocacy organizations are concerned that domestic violence may be part of the reason for the spike. Although 2014 is only halfway over, more women have already been killed this year than in 2013. Our nurses offer free intimate partner violence exams at any time at Washington Hospital Center. Find more information on our website. There are also links to resources provided by other groups in the city and information about what to do if you or a loved one are facing an abusive relationship.
A new survey of campus sexual assault adds to already serious concerns about how our nation’s colleges are responding to sexual assault. The survey, released by Senator Claire McCaskill (Missouri), reveals that many colleges are in violation of laws about responding to sexual assault or fail to follow best practices for responding to these crimes. Read more here and read the report here.
Here in DC, we watch the news about sexual assault and SANE programs in Maryland and Virginia closely because so many people cross between the three regions on a regular basis. The state of Maryland just passed a law requiring all hospitals to have a protocol in place for responding to sexual assault victims. Check out this article to learn more about Maryland’s new law as well as a thorough overview of all of the different ways different regions across the country respond to sexual assaults.
The Department of Forensic Sciences in Washington, DC does a phenomenal job at processing our sexual assault evidence kits. Their forensic scientist and team have eliminated the backlog of kits in DC and have a rapid turnaround for test results. Kudos to them, thanks for doing such a great job with our kits!
A Washington Post article about the national kit backlog. http://wapo.st/SOUXTg
Check out these local stories!
Earlier this week an Alexandria, Virginia deputy sheriff was arrested for sexually assaulting a female inmate. The sexual assault charges have now been dropped though he is still charged with carnal knowledge of an inmate and Alexandria’s sheriff says he “betrayed his duty to this Office.” May 15 was the deadline for states and territories to adopt federal standards to reduce sexual assault in prisons under the Prison Rape Elimination Act. It is estimated that 4% of state and federal prisoners and 3.2% of jail inmates experience sexual assault.
Happy National Nurses Week! This year’s theme is Nurses: Leading the Way and we’re proud to be leading the way for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence in the District. Forensic nurses play an important role in the community by providing victim-centered medical care while also collecting evidence and working with the judicial system to bring perpetrators to justice.
This year we joined with other victim services groups in DC to ensure that survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) have access to comprehensive care and services. Our nurses provide exams to survivors of IPV and they are specially trained on the nuances of strangulation and other injuries commonly seen with IPV patients, and they know how to collect evidence and offer testimony in court. Learn more here. We also continued to provide exams and medical care for sexual assault survivors in the city. Check back for more information as our program continues to grow and offer new services!
Read more about forensic nurses and National Nurses Week here.