System Helps Sexual Assault Victims

by Kirsten May
Courtesy of A-State Department of Media

A person is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States, which means an average of 288,820 victims face rape or sexual assault. A sexual assault occurred on Arkansas State’s main campus earlier this month. ASU TV News’s Kirsten May investigates how a sexual assault affects mental health.

JONESBORO, Ark. — Many sexual assault victims first end up in an emergency room where Dr. Brandon Lane works.

“First, as a physician, we will assess the patient from a physical standpoint to make sure they have no injuries,” Lane said.

Then, as long as the patient consents, St. Bernards Regional Medical Center Emergency Room doctors will begin the process of collecting evidence that could be used in a later criminal case.

“And then we will go ahead and take that evidence to the appropriate law enforcement agency,” Lane said. “If the patient wants us to, not by law. If the patient is agreeable to that. That’s the sticky point sometimes that we see here in the emergency room.”

Although doctors cannot always give evidence to police though Lane said they often want to, physicians can ensure the patient gets any other help he or she might need, like a referral to a therapist.

“Especially if the patient is by him or herself, so that we can get them to be supported early on in their care,” he said. “I think the main thing is to know that they are supported.”

Matthew Knight is a licensed professional counselor who is now in administration at Midsouth Health Systems. He said conveying “someone is there” is the most important thing to do for any trauma victim.

“That someone believes their story. That someone is in a sense in their corner or at least is listening to what they have to say,” he said.

Knight said for many victims, there are thoughts of guilt and self-doubt about what they could have done differently. He wants them to know this assault is not their fault and they don’t have to try and heal by themselves.

“There are probably a lot of woman who deal with this alone, who never told anybody else and just went home,” Knight said. “So I think that there are probably woman who this becomes their secret and secrets have so much power, particularly secrets that are kept about trauma.”

Knight said another difficult thing for victims to do is decide whether or not they want to press charges against the perpetrator.

***

How difficult is it to prosecute sexual assault cases? Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington speaks with Kirsten May next week on ASU TV News.

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