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The Emergency Department and Victims of Sexual Violence: An Assessment of Preparedness to Help

Author: STACEY PLICHTA, TANCY VANDECAR-BURDIN, REBECCA ODOR, SHANI REAMS, and YAN ZHANG
Published in JHHSA, Vol. 29 No. 3

The Emergency Department (ED) is a key source of care for
victims of sexual violence but there is little information available about
the extent to which EDs are prepared to provide this care. This study
examines the structural and process factors that the ED has in place to
assist victims. A survey of all 82 publicly accessible EDs in the
Commonwealth of Virginia was conducted (RR 76%). In general, the
EDs provide the recommended medical care to victims. However, at
least half do not have the needed resources in place to effectively assist
victims and most (80%) do not provide regular training to their medical
staff about sexual violence. Further, almost one-quarter do not have a
relationship with a local rape crisis center. It is recommended that each
ED partner with local rape crisis centers to provide training to their
staff and to ensure continuity of support for victims. It is also
suggested that the state government explore ways in which a forensic
(SANE) nurse be made available to every victim of sexual violence that
presents to the ED for medical assistance. Ideally, each ED would
become part of a community-wide Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) in order to provide comprehensive care to victims and
thorough evidence collection and information to law enforcement.

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