- DMN: Advocates try to expand post-assault services for Dallas rape victims
- DMN: Society image belies fierce advocate for Dallas-area rape victims
In Dallas, there’s another obstacle: a lack of hospitals staffed and equipped to receive victims and perform the required procedures to put rapists behind bars.
Only two hospitals in Dallas County — Parkland Memorial and Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas — are qualified. A traumatized victim, mistakenly believing all hospitals offer such services, might shuttle from one emergency room to another before finally being directed to the right place. It can mean hours of searching for help in the aftermath of a horrific experience.
No wonder many victims just give up and go home. The consequences? Justice goes unserved and rapists walk free, possibly to attack again. Nationally, only about 6 percent of rapists ever serve a day in jail.
Courtney Underwood Newsome knows, firsthand, the victims’ feelings of helplessness and frustration, having been raped at age 15. Now 29, the president of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center is dedicated to smoothing the process for victims and expanding the availability of rape exam services.
This newspaper shares her goal for the same reasons we supported an initiative earlier this year by GOP Sen. John Cornyn to reduce the appalling backlog of unprocessed rape exam kits in police custody around Texas. All these factors impede justice, add to victims’ agony and promote a sense of impunity among rapists.
Rape victims require specialized attention, so nurse examiners at hospitals must be trained on the exact procedures to find, collect and handle DNA evidence — not just semen but also saliva, sweat and hair. They also must know how to testify at trial. Participating hospitals need to dedicate waiting and exam rooms specifically for these victims.
It all costs money. A $2 million grant helped Presbyterian open its rape crisis center in 2010. Underwood Newsome said other hospitals can start services for much less: An annual expense of $40,000 to $50,000 is sufficient for an institution to keep qualified nurses on call.
Some donors have stepped forward, but more are needed. Southern Dallas, where roughly 60 percent of the city’s reported rapes have occurred in the past six months, has no such services. Methodist Dallas Medical Center in Oak Cliff is working on nurse training and hopes to offer services in 2014, possibly earlier.
We want the impunity to end for rapists. More hospitals should follow the lead of Parkland, Presbyterian and Methodist to make it easier for victims to get help and see justice done.