Local News

Special Room at Duke Hospital to Help Sexual Assault Victims, Police

Posted November 16, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— Duke Hospital is a big facility, but officials have set aside a small room inside to help sexual assault victims feel at home. That one room could make all the difference when it comes to solving sexual assault cases.

"They have to reiterate the events of the assault to the nurse, and it's very painful for them, and they can't really do that when there's all this hubbub going on right outside the door," says nurse Sara Sullivan.

Sullivan is one of 14 specially-trained nurses available to victims 24 hours a day.

In addition to recording the details of what happened, nurses will also use a $25,000 piece of equipment to capture details of damage to the patient's body that may not be seen with the naked eye. What is learned here can also be used in a court of law.

The hospital, along with the Rape Crisis Center of Durham, police and the District Attorney's Office worked together to create the room. They are hoping it will pay off by putting more assailants behind bars.

"To take that information, and to be able to transmit that, and translate it back to what we do in the courtroom is going to be an incredible link, and I think it's going to be critical to our success," says Jim Hardin, Durham County District Attorney.

On average, Duke treats 90 people a year who have been sexually assaulted.

Donations and grants made the sexual assault room possible. The specially-trained nurses underwent 40 hours of classroom time in addition to 50 to 60 hours of community work.