Virginia Delegate Mark Levine, Senator Barbara Favola, and Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol jointly shepherded an effort by local and state elected leaders, community leaders, and law enforcement to obtain a nearly $560,000 grant of state and federal funds to support five full-time and two part-time forensic nurses (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners or SANEs) at Inova Hospital in Fairfax County. SANEs specialize in treating adults and children who are victims of sexual assault. Inova’s program will be the only 24/7 forensic nursing program serving Northern Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun) and the first center of its kind in the Commonwealth.
Until now, the clinic was staffed with part-time, on-call nurses, which resulted in lack of sufficient coverage. Long wait times were not only traumatic for victims; they negatively affected evidence collection. But sexual assault cases have been on the rise. Since 2013, the Inova Ewing Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team has experienced a 44% increase in cases. In 2016, their nurses saw nearly 700 patients, averaging about two a day. The team saw 186 patients in the first three months of 2017, a 19% increase compared to the same period last year.
"Sexual assault is traumatic enough. When a victim arrives at a hospital – wanting a checkup for sexually-transmitted diseases, treatment for physical injuries, or therapy for post-traumatic stress – their trauma should not be prolonged by having to wait several hours, or possibly all night, just to be helped. Otherwise, despondent survivors may well decide to go home, take a shower, and get some sleep,” said Delegate Mark Levine. “By making these exams easily accessible in the good care of a trained SANE practitioner, survivors will receive not only the physical care and emotional compassion they need; they will also get a practical forensic opportunity to prosecute their perpetrators. Studies have shown that the vast majority of sexual assaults are conducted by repeat offenders. Providing 24/7 SANE support thus helps not only the treated survivor; it actually helps stop future sexual assaults.”
In 2017, Levine introduced HB 2127 in the General Assembly, a bill just signed into law which requires evidence recovery kits to be stored at least until the survivor reaches the age of 28 and ten years after the assault, or, at the option of the survivor, even longer. The new law thus provides healing survivors sufficient time over many years to make a fully informed decision on whether to press charges.
Del. Levine, Sen. Favola, and Ms. Cristol will be holding a press conference to announce this grant, along with officials from Inova at 9am, Thursday June 1 at Inova Hospital at 8110 Gatehouse Rd in Falls Church, Virginia.