SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) For more than two years, survivors of sexual assault in Santa Cruz have had to leave the county for rape exams. Tuesday, the board of supervisors approved an facility so survivors won’t have to go to Santa Clara County for exams.
The examinations will now take place at Dominican Hospital and the nurses are provided by Valley Medical Center in San Jose.
"Contracted with Valley Medical staff, which has a very robust and experienced program over the hill, they will continue to manage it. But all 9 nurses are from the Santa Cruz county community,” Monarch Services Executive Director Laura Segura said.
For survivors of sexual assault, like Delphine Burns, bringing the test closer to home is a necessary change.
“I’m a survivor of rape, and I now believe its really important to advocate for others. It's really important for survivors to be closer to home and closer to a familiar place when they’re already going through an exam that is really long,” Burns said.
Every year, there are 60 to 70 rape exams in Santa Cruz county.
“We’ve had the funding for it, but staffing was the biggest thing. We have been looking for ways to get that staff at a full level so that we can run medical examinations in Santa Cruz county. So we can run those exams 24-7 365 days out of the year,” Ashley Keehn with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said.
Over the last two and half years, while the exams took place in Santa Clara county, the number of reported incidents didn’t go down.
“This past year, despite the program having moved over the hill, we saw a 7% increase in people getting the exams. What this tells us is there’s more support for survivors, and more options for survivors. One of those options is anonymous exams,” Segura said.
The S.A.R.T. program at Dominican Hospital is expected to be open by April.
Anyone who has experienced sexual assault or violence can call the Monarch Services crisis line at 888-900-4232.