I read the Feb. 7 article “No forensic exams for sex assault victims” by Sophie Woodrooffe with horror. As a retired social worker who worked with survivors of sexual assault, I believe Marie deserved much better care. Sexual assault is a violent crime and forensic exams must be immediately available. VCH should have had certified sexual assault nurse examiners well before the last trained doctor retired in August 2019. The logistics of the management of a sexual assault team is years overdue!
To preserve evidence, the victim cannot shower, brush their hair, change their clothing, wash their hands, or have anything to eat or drink. We cannot reasonably expect someone already traumatized by an assault to go to the ferry and travel to another hospital. Remember, you cannot stay in your car if you are not loaded on the top level and must sit in the public area for the voyage. This is not acceptable.
The forensic exam is not only the gathering of evidence and the documentation of physical injuries. It is accompanied by discussion of possible sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy and necessary follow-up health care. Certified sexual assault nurse examiners are the best-practice options and they are prepared to take the lead with anyone who has been sexually assaulted. The isolation of the Sunshine Coast requires more than two certified sexual assault nurse examiners to cover 24/7, 365 days per year. It is encouraging that some doctors have expressed interest in the training but, in my opinion, training needs to be required for all doctors and nurses, especially the basics of treating traumatized individuals respectfully.
I applaud Marie’s courage to tell her story. I hope no one else will be required to experience the humiliation, embarrassment, and regret for even bothering to go to the hospital.
Heather Field, Garden Bay