Local News

New State Law Shows Compassion to Rape Victims

Posted January 15, 1998 12:00 a.m. EST

— Being the victim of a sexual assault is devastating enough, but many women feel they are victimized further by waiting for hours to be examined in a crowded emergency room.

Now, hospitals, police, district attorneys and victim advocates have teamed up to help change that with the Victim Support Plan.

It used to be that rape victims had to be seen by a doctor, but now a new state law now allows specially-trained nurses to examine victims and even to testify in their court cases. The first training of nurses in the state is taking place at Wake Medical Center this week. The nurses are learning about evidence, the courtroom and compassion.

Rape survivor Amy Simms says that the emergency room wait was almost as bad as the crime itself.

Robin Frankenberry of the N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault says that victims used to have to wait for a physician to examine them.

But thanks to Senate Bill 320,which was passed last year, nurses are now being trained to collect evidence in sexual assault cases. They are also trained to testify about that evidence in court.

Nurse Cheryl Scott says that the training teaches folks to report the facts -- not how they feel.

Wake Medical Center is designating an exam room and dressing rooms away from the emergency room, just for rape victims. Simms thinks that the separate areas are a welcome change.

Wake Medical Center hopes to have its examination area for sexual assault victims ready by March 1. Within the next two years, the state hopes to train more than 300 nurses in North Carolina to handle sexual assault cases.

Photographer:Terry Cantrell

andBrian Shrader