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The Role Of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners In Campus Sexual Assault Proceedings

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One in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted while in college. More than 90% of sexual assault victims on campuses do not report the assault. Kirby Dick’s documentary, “The Hunting Ground,” discusses these statistics. It is a fast growing epidemic that needs to be stopped. Colleges across the United States are more concerned about the reputation they hold, rather than help and protect their victims of sexual assault. The article, “Title IX: The Role of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners in Campus Sexual Assault Proceedings” by Rebecca Leitman Veidlinger mentions that these nurses not only have the medical knowledge to conduct sexual assault examinations, but also know the criminal justice process connected to the examination.

Victims need to know there is somewhere they can go where they will be heard; not harassed and blamed. The people who are suffering from this experience need to tell their story, have a support system and most importantly provide proof. It is incredibly difficult in the courts to name the defendant guilty without proof, because all it is, is hearsay. The nurses will provide no bias; they will be there for those that need them in a tough and confusing time. It should be mandatory that there are SANE nurses on every college campus. It is always difficult to go off to college for many students who are close to their family at home. In times of need, they start to realize they cannot run to their parents with every issue due to the distance. In “The Hunting Ground,” Dick showed victims of sexual assault from colleges all over the United States who were brave enough to tell their stories. Most explained how campus administrators blamed the victim for their choice of clothes, their amount of drinks or approaching personality. Many sexual assaults go unreported because the victims are terrified and think no one will believe them, as well as feel incredibly embarrassed.

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On the other hand, SANEs could connect with the victims as well as perform sexual assault medical examinations to ensure there is forensic evidence available and to report the victim’s emotional state immediately after the alleged attack. SANEs should be mandated on all college campuses because the victims could have a safe place to run to directly after an attack has occurred. Just because their family is not there to protect them, does not mean they cannot run for help somewhere else that is not necessarily the administration team on campus. Without their background knowledge, the nurses wouldn’t be able to do their job effectively. The nurses’ training requires learning a host of information related to the role of the SANE examination in the criminal process. This shows that SANE nurses are more than qualified to complete the examination, and if needed, appear in court on behalf of the victim. SANEs are required to protect the confidentiality of the victim in court, unless discussed with the victim otherwise. This creates a bond of trust, an amazing support system for the victim, as well as hope for justice to be served. When parents send their kids off to college, they do it because they want their kids to get the best education possible. All they ask, is to keep their kids safe. There are clear laws against sexual assault, but sadly, money is always the issue. Title IX was introduced in “The Hunting Ground” when two survivors, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, which were the two main characters/activists in the documentary, were determined to call out the campuses who refused to report assaults and thereby contributed to hostile environments. They discovered Title IX by conducting a lot of research, and listening to many court hearings that had to do with sexual assault cases. When a college is found to be in violation of Title IX, all government funding is annulled. As sad as this is, this finally created attention from college campuses across the U.S. Money is the determinant factor. Now, as institutions come into compliance with the mandate of Title IX, SANEs can be called upon as valuable contributors to campus investigations and adjudications of sexual assault.

As described in more detail in the article, SANEs may have to interact with different schools depending on their Title IX staff which may vary throughout campuses. SANEs could provide expert evidence of the victim’s state of mind immediately following the alleged attack, as well as medical forensic results which is the most important part. No defendant can be charged guilty based on hearsay. A victim claiming he/she has been sexually assaulted will not do anything in the court. If the victims had a safe place to go in their most vulnerable state, they would be able to gather the evidence they need. Most victims wait a while before they report an attack due to potential PTSD caused after the attack, or do not report at all. This should never be the case just because of fear. Everyone deserves a voice and proper justice. Most college campuses are not only interested in protecting their image, but also in protecting the accused of any false accusations. Students who have deep hate for someone may lie in order to get them kicked out of school, ruin their scholarship or even life. Of course, there may be situations where this can happen, but with SANEs on campus, this threat can be eliminated.

In the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” one victim explained that some of the administrators asked her perpetrator to write an essay on why sexual assault compared to punishment, instead of getting them expelled, which is what they should have done. This clearly shows the administrators were very lenient and basically gave just a slap on the wrist in order to not “ruin their education,” but the victims have to live with a lifetime of potential mental damage. A SANEs’ purpose is not to protect the image of the institutions, but to be there for the victim in time of need, and gather evidence which leaves them without bias towards the victims. SANEs are trained to observe victims and thereby eliminate false charges. This is always a big deal when it comes to athletes. Due to the fame many athletes receive in college, it is very likely for them to have haters that want to take away their spotlight. There are also many times athletes are indeed guilty of the crime, but receive no consequences. Less than 4% of college men are student-athletes. They commit 19% or more of reported college sexual assaults. Erica Kinsman attended Florida State University when she was sexually assaulted by an athlete. She called the police, and they took her to the hospital where they performed the rape kit. She believed while she was in the hospital, the police were handling the situation. With the information Erica provided, the police could have identified and question the assailant the next day. They could have obtained security footage from the bar she attended and met the suspect, or identified the cab driver that drove her and the suspect. They did none of these. After some time, Erica went back to school and sees the suspect walk into class. She notifies the police of his name. Jameis Winston was the biggest football star in their college, and the police kept telling Erica to think long and hard if she would like to press charges. The Tallahassee Police Department refused to run DNA tests on Jameis. The detective on Erica’s case graduated from Florida State University and also worked with an organization that provided funds for Florida athletes. Jameis was only a freshman when he became the starting quarterback. He was the main source of revenue for Florida State, and leading them to championships. The police should have treated him like anyone else in these cases, and that did not happen here. Not every student athlete may be guilty of the crime they are accused of, but with SANEs on campus, victims will receive no bias, and colleges are assured to having a knowledgeable and objective source of support and evidence that will make sure no one is creating false accusations.

In conclusion, there is no reason SANEs shouldn’t be mandatory on college campuses. It is important that SANEs are easily accessed by students who may not have transportation or even are unaware of such nurses. This causes no problems for a university because they are sticking to their protocols of Title IX, and most importantly keeping their campus safe due to the eventual elimination of perpetrators. Less than 8% of men commit more than 90% of sexual assaults. What this means is most men are not sexual predators, and those who are, will be quickly discovered by SANEs. With the help of SANEs, the evidence they gather will be enough to prosecute the assaulters, bring justice for the victims, and most importantly, save others from sexual assault. Many colleges across the United States stated they had 0 assaults in 2012, which causes parents to be misled by the colleges’ statistics. These young students need to know they can go to these trained professionals and ask for help and receive that help. These victims, in the eyes of the administrators, are not allowed to dress the way they want, go out the where they want, or act the way they are, but yet the perpetrators can do as they please. These are not victims but according to administrators were contributing to their assaults. No longer do victims need to fear administrators who blame them for their assault. As Dick made clear, the victim’s’ assault was unacceptable, but the way they were treated by administrators was worse. Instead, SANEs will be able to provide a comfortable and safe environment to talk for the victims, as well as someone trained to gather medical evidence against their assaulter. All universities need to be aware of their crimes. This would secure an influx of SANEs to ensure justice and put college sexual assaults to an end.

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