(originally posted by wfaa.com)

DALLAS — Last summer, women in the Fair Park area of Dallas were terrified with a serial rapist on the loose.

The man assaulted nine women, but several of them didn’t come forward immediately.

Experts say that’s not unusual. Nationally, fewer than 18 percent of sex assaults are reported.

Advocates for rape victims say part of the problem in South Dallas is there have been no hospitals south of the Trinity River that offer rape kits, which give medical personnel the tools to collect and preserve physical evidence.

But that’s about to change.

In a news release, advocate and rape victim Courtney Underwood announced, “This will be the first time in Dallas’ history that rape kits are available in South Dallas.”

That’s because Methodist Dallas Medical Center is about to launch the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, similar to a program already in place at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Rape kits are also available at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Nurses with 180 hours of training will collect evidence in special examination rooms. It’s designed for women to be in a more nurturing environment after a traumatic event.

Underwood was sexually assaulted when she was a teenager. “I looked for help in the Dallas community, and there wasn’t any,” she said. “There was no one providing services. I had no idea who to even go to to ask for help.”

So Underwood made it her mission to improve care for rape victims, and has pushed for more hospitals to offer exams.

More details about the Methodist program will be announced at a news conference on Thursday.
E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com