Sexual Assault Center to provide rape exams in new clinic

SexualAssulat2 w cutlinesOfficials of the Sexual Assault Center (SAC) are in the process of creating an area within their current facility that is designed exclusively to provide expert and reliable forensic evaluation for rape survivors in a compassionate and supportive setting.

This means survivors of sexual assault will no longer have to go to a hospital for a rape exam and instead will be taken by first responders to SAC, where there will be an emphasis on specialized, benevolent care

Long time board member and community activist Lisa Campbell is leading the capital campaign for this project. This is the third such effort Campbell has led for SAC, which includes the purchase of the current building and the one used prior to it.

Campbell and SAC President Rachel Freeman are raising $2.5 million for the price of construction, including furnishings and to help cover the increased cost of operating the clinic. Only about $100,000 is still needed and donations of any size are welcome.

“When the remodeling is finished around the end of April, SAC will be able to ensure survivors of sexual assault will experience healing in a trauma-informed, nurturing and safe facility,” said Campbell.

“Renovations will include nine additional offices to account for growing staff. There also will be increased security measures such as additional lighting for our parking lot, a securely enclosed parking lot for the clinic, and security gates and cameras,” Freeman said.

“We also will have a separate entrance for the clinic that will include two exam rooms, a restroom and shower for survivors, a nurse consultation room, a waiting room, a lab with specialized cabinets to store evidence, and a room for advocates,” added Freeman.

The clinic will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week with soundproofed offices and exam rooms for confidentiality, comfortable waiting area for survivors and family members, and additional rooms for first responders.

SexualAssualtphotow cutlines_1-182018Located in SAC’s building, the clinic will be separated from all other operations with its own entrance. All features, including lighting, paint colors, furniture and stonework, have been designed to create a safe and welcoming environment for survivors.

“SAC’s primary partner in this project is Nashville General Hospital (NGH),” said Freeman. “Both organizations will utilize their strengths. SAC excels at creating an atmosphere that supports sexual assault survivors, and NGH holds expertise in utilizing specially trained nurse practitioners to provide the exams, collect evidence, and testify in court.

“Through this partnership, which also includes Metro Nashville Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office, we will create a process that makes Nashville one of the best communities in our nation serving rape survivors,” Freeman added.

The impetus to create the clinic began in March, 2016, when Mayor Megan Barry appointed Dr. Bill Paul, CEO of Nashville’s Health Department, to chair a community wide committee to make recommendations to improve the process of providing sexual assault forensic exams to rape survivors.

The committee includes professionals from the Mayor’s Office, Metro Nashville Police Department, District Attorney’s Office, Nashville General Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Our Kids, Skyline Medical Center, St. Thomas Hospital and the Sexual Assault Center. After extensive study, one of the major recommendations of the committee was to create a clinic outside of a hospital setting that is exclusively designed to provide these exams in a survivor-centered and trauma-informed manner.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve to have a place where they can feel safe to come forward and receive the care they need, not only to heal but to pursue the justice they deserve. This proposed addition to the Sexual

Assault Center will help expand our city’s support for survivors of sexual assault in a compassionate environment,” Barry said.

“Austin, Texas is one comparable city we have turned to throughout this process be- cause they embarked on a similar journey in 2015,” Freeman said. “Rape exams in Austin are now performed in a clinic at their sexual assault center. After the first full year of operation in this new non-hospital clinic, Austin saw the number of rape exams double.

“Additionally, the sexual assault response team members in Austin, working together to collect data, started recognizing trends in offender data,” said Campbell. “Victim advocates, medical professionals, attorneys, and law enforcement are working together to not only improve services to survivors of sexual assault, but to also make the community safer by stopping offenders. Nashville can do the same thing through the creation of this clinic at SAC and help make this city a better place in which to live.”

For more information, call 615-259-9055 or visit www.sacenter.org.

Brenda Batey
Contributor to The News