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New State Law Shows Compassion to Rape Victims

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RALEIGH — Being the victim of a sexual assault isdevastating 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 haveteamed 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 anew state law now allows specially-trained nurses to examine victimsand even to testify in their court cases. The first training of nurses inthe state is taking place at Wake Medical Center this week. The nurses arelearning about evidence, the courtroom and compassion.

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

Robin Frankenberry of the N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault saysthat victims used to have to wait for a physician to examinethem.

But thanks to Senate Bill 320,which was passed last year, nurses are nowbeing 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 thefacts -- not how they feel.

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

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

Photographer:Terry Cantrell

andBrian Shrader