From Darkness to Light with Tech for the Public Interest

Jan 2, 2020

Sexual Assault Response in the U.S. 

There is no reason why people in the U.S. should have more information about their nearest coffee shop than where to go for sexual assault response. This summer I was introduced to one of the nation’s leading sexual assault reform advocates, Leah Griffin. I immediately knew her powerful story would change our nation. We bonded over our shared impatience for justice. NBC Nightly News interviewed Leah at Giving Tech Labs to help raise awareness about this important, but an often unspoken gap in our healthcare system. Technology for the Public Interest #Tech4PI and The Tech for Social Impact Fund can change this. All donations are tax-deductible, as we work for a better tomorrow. I hope you will join us in supporting open access to information about sexual assault response so Leah’s experience isn’t repeated by others.

Shelly Kurtz, VidaNyx Board Member and Co-Founder, Giving Tech Labs

Not all hospitals provide rape kits. In 2014, I was raped. I thought I knew exactly what to do. I went to the closest emergency room. When I arrived and explained what had happened, hospital workers shrugged their shoulders and said, “We don’t do rape kits here.” I was shocked. I was told my options were to drive across town in a traumatized state to another hospital miles away or take an ambulance at my own expense. I went home until it was safe enough to drive.

Hours later, I did get a rape kit done, but that delay in care contributed to the prosecutor’s decision to decline charges in my case.

I was furious and wondered if my case was a one-off, or symptomatic of a larger problem. I reached out to lawmakers for help. Senator Patty Murray heard my story and commissioned a Government Accountability Office Report in 2015 confirming that nationwide, victims of rape were being turned away from hospitals because of a lack of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners available to provide rape kits. In Nebraska, most counties had zero access to rape kits. In Alaska, some victims had to travel 17 hours by plane to access a kit. We have a justice system that requires empirical evidence to prosecute rape but denies victims access to evidence collection. This problem is widespread, but little actual data exists on SANE availability nationwide. Currently, in most locations, the only way for a victim to know where to go for care after rape is to call hospitals themselves.

Additionally, when a victim is turned away at an emergency room, they may not receive other possibly lifesaving care. They may not receive pregnancy prevention, STI prevention, or connections to mental healthcare or victim advocates.

In order for victims to access both the healthcare and justice systems, they must have accurate information about where rape kits are available. I am proud to be working with Giving Tech Labs and Panorama Global to provide that information. With your help, we can create a tool that can be used by law enforcement, EMTs, rape crisis centers, and victims to identify where care is available and ensure that all rape survivors can access the healthcare and justice system without retraumatization. -Leah Griffin, Sexual Assault Reform Advocate

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