Sexual assault awareness, resources ramp up around UW campus
It may look like something out of CSI, but Kim Curran said being a forensic nurse doesn’t quite go that far; however, it’s no less important to the community.
Armed with a camera, stickers to mark injuries, swabs and evidence bags, Curran and her team of medical providers are helping more sexual-assault victims than ever.
“It comes in handy in a court of law. It comes in handy with memories,” Curran said.
The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program has seen 423 people so far this year compared to 428 last year. Fifty people sought out its services in September alone.
Everyone on the SANE staff has more than 100 hours of training on top of their medical expertise, allowing them to treat the emotional and physical impact of sexual assault and other types of violence.
The only SANE group in Dane County is available 24/7 at Meriter Hospital’s emergency room.
The SANE team is also trained in collecting forensic evidence. Curran said specializing in documentation is crucial, especially when it comes to perpetrators being prosecuted.
“Many of these cases take a long time to make it through the court process if this person is reporting, for example,” Curran said. “So our charts really aid in both memory of the victim and to really show an accurate representation of what that victim presented us when they were in front of us a year later, two years later, three years later.”
While the majority of the people SANE treats are young women, only about one in 10 come from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Curran finds that even more surprising considering the geographic proximity between the hospital and campus.
UW Police Department spokesperson Marc Lovicott said sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes officers deal with on campus.
“We want them to tell someone because first and foremost, we need to make sure they are getting the help that they need,” Lovicott said.
The latest push from UWPD is a video, going along with its campaign targeting young men who could be perpetrators.
According to UWPD data, 165 sexual assaults were reported to the university so far this year, while six were reported to UW police. Two of the reports that the department received have gone to the district attorney, and no one has been charged.
Madison police compiled a list of sexual assaults ranging from fondling to forcible rape in the off-campus region where numerous students live. About 40 sexual assaults of various levels were reported to that department since January.
Lovicott said police departments all over the country struggle with victims not reporting sexual assaults to law enforcement. The reasons, he said, range from embarrassment to a victim knowing his or her assailant to not remembering the incident due to some sort of intoxication.
While Lovicott would like to see more people coming forward with their experiences and more perpetrators in jail, he said he wants to make sure victims talk to someone, even if it’s not police.
“It’s a challenging issue because while we want to do our job as a police department, we also understand that folks just aren’t ready at that time to tell us about it,” Lovicott said. “And we’re trying to change that, but it’s a tough issue because we understand.”
Curran and others won’t stop trying to address the issue and offer services to all sexual assault survivors.
“There’s something truly special about working with someone when they’re in a time of trauma and you can see, even in the span of the few hours that we spend with them, them get back some piece of control within their life,” Curran said.