Trigger Warning: This content uses language that may trigger sexual assault survivors.
Sexual assault is a complex and horrific problem. It’s personal, it’s heartbreaking and it’s different in each case. But if we are ever to end sexual assault, we must stop letting its complexity get in the way.
This is the eighth story in a semester-long series where the Daily will publish a plethora of stories related to sexual assault, including discussions of various resources survivors can get if they’re comfortable with. do it.
– Emily Barske, editor-in-chief
Reporting sexual assault isn’t supposed to be a difficult process, and Story County SART tries to make it easier for survivors.
For survivors of sexual assault, it can be difficult to tell close friends or relatives about their assault, and even more difficult to talk to a complete stranger.
The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) implements techniques to facilitate the reporting process in order to keep it focused on the victim and under their control.
The Ames and ISU Police Departments are part of SART, whose mission is to “serve victims of sexual assault by coordinating an immediate, high-quality, multidisciplinary, and victim-centered response …” This response will generally provide three groups of professionals: medical, law enforcement, and advocacy.
In Ames, SART agencies include: ISU Police, Ames Police, Mary Greeley Medical Center, ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support) office, and Thielen Student Health Center.
ISU Police Officer Anthony Greiter is trained on how to interact with survivors of sexual assault during the reporting process.
“We are not here to judge them,” said Greiter. “We can ask tough questions, but we’re here to help.”
The first thing a SART professional does is offer resources to the victim and let them choose how to proceed. If the survivor chooses to continue, she decides how the process will unfold. All cases are not the same because it all depends on the victim.
The victim does not have to tell their whole story. They have the opportunity to undergo a forensic examination for sexual assault and they can begin the process to file a complaint. If they choose to tell their story and their names are mentioned, the police may be required to automatically report the assault.
“If they give me names and they are affiliated with the university, whether they are suspects or victims, I have to report it to the university,” said Greiter.
Iowa State University is required by federal guidelines to open an investigation led by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX, which addresses cases of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, criminal harassment and more.
If a student is suspected and found guilty, they will have violated the student code of conduct and will be expelled.
If the survivor reports to an Ames police officer, the department is not required to report to the university.
The medical side of SART is the SANE, or Nurse Examiner for Sexual Assault, which meets with patients who decide to take the forensic examination for sexual assault. The first order of business is always to inform the patient of the options.
If they go ahead, the discussion is about the processes that will take place, the drugs offered and what they will treat.
The kit includes envelopes, cotton swabs and papers that the SANE will fill out. The nurse will first administer prophylactic drugs, but the patient is not required to take them. This is a preventative measure to ensure that the patient does not contract a sexually transmitted disease.
“So we are ahead [the victims] do not need to be diagnosed with a transmitted sexual infection, ”said Shannon Knudsen, sexual assault screening coordinator.
Other necessary evidence, such as clothing, can be collected in paper bags. The paper bag allows DNA to “breathe”, while a plastic bag will decompose the evidence.
Another tool that is not included in the kit is the speculum, which is inserted into the vagina to analyze injuries.
After receiving consent, the first examination by the nurse examiner is a visual examination of the entire body that looks for injuries such as scratches, bruises, and anything that may contain the perpetrator’s DNA. The nurse will use a certain flashlight that illuminates bodily fluids of any kind to gather evidence.
“We’re doing this exam for injuries, and then while I’m doing this exam, I’m also going through the kits and collecting that evidence,” Knudsen said.
The first swab administered is the oral swab, which lets the laboratory know which DNA is from the patient and which of the abuser. The oral swab is taken from the mouth, but if there is oral aggression, an oral swab will be used and blood will be drawn instead.
With the patient’s consent, doctors take swabs from parts of the body that the abuser has touched. If the patient wishes, only certain parts of the kit can be made. The whole kit is not necessary and the processes are defined by the decisions of the patient.
“I am mandated by [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act], so what they tell me I can’t share with anyone else, “Knudsen said.” If they want to pursue an investigation, then I must have permission to speak to law enforcement. “
It does not include whether the victim is a child or dependent adult, or whether human trafficking is suspected. In these cases, mandatory reports are issued.
If the patient feels uncomfortable, the kit may stop. Whatever the survivor is most comfortable with comes first, SART says. If the kit has been completed but the patient is unsure of the next steps, the statute of limitations is 10 years in Iowa. The survivor has this time to make a decision on what he wants.
Forensic examinations for sexual assault are not necessary in some cases. Greiter said some sexual assault cases in Story County were won without DNA evidence from the perpetrator. Sexual assault forensic examination is still only an option, and most aspects of reporting are under the survivor’s control.
In Iowa, there are over 4,200 untested forensic examinations for sexual assault. Authorities soon hope to pressure them all to be tested in order to identify the perpetrator and ultimately indict them. Some of these tests date from the 1990s.
The effort, which is part of a national initiative, is funded by a $ 3 million grant from the US Department of Justice. The initiative will also aim to establish a statewide sexual assault forensic examination tracking system.