Senate Approves Hiring Sex-Assault Nurses For UConn Campus [Courant]

April 15, 2015

Hartford Courant

UConn would be authorized to hire sexual assault nurses to deal directly with sexual assault victims on the Storrs campus under a bill that won unanimous Senate approval Tuesday.

“One in five college women are sexually assaulted on their college campuses,” Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden, said in explaining the need for the legislation. She said the aim of the bill is to provide UConn sexual assault victims with the best and swiftest care possible.

The legislation now goes to the House for final approval.

Bartolomeo said those who report being sexually assaulted on the Storrs campus currently are initially interviewed at the UConn infirmary, but then must be transported by ambulance to Windham Hospital in Willimantic, a ride of 20-25 minutes. Once there, the rape or sex assault victim would then undergo a forensic examination by a sexual assault nurse.

Having a certified sexual assault nurse on campus would reduce the number of times a victim would have to explain what happened. Sen. Mae Flexer, a Danielson Democrat who is one of the main sponsors of the bill, said being able to stay on campus for a forensic examination would “slightly reduce the trauma that survivors of sexual assault experience.”

Connecticut now has Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) nurses stationed at six hospitals around the state. Between July 2013 and July 2014, SAFE nurses responded to 173 sexual assault cases, according to state officials.

Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, a former police officer, said, “One of the hardest crimes I ever investigated was sexual assault.” He said that, for a woman who suffered an assault, repeatedly having to tell the details “was almost going through the process of being re-victimized.”

“We know the numbers of reported cases are far lower than the actual number of rapes,” Witkos said.

Last year, UConn agreed to a $1.3 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by five sexual assault victims who claimed the school mishandled the response to their cases and failed to condemn or intervene in reported instances of harassment of female students. The university did not admit to any wrongdoing in those cases.

Sexual assault on college campuses has become a national issue, with colleges and universities in this state and across the country struggling to reform the way they respond to allegations of rape and sexual harassment