Search

How the Coronavirus May Impact Sexual Assault Cases


Across the United States, the spread of COVID-19 has affected Americans in ways that we may not have initially considered. A good example is the popular meme circulating on social media that says, “Hey moms! How many times have you yelled, ‘Stop! We cannot go to the emergency room right now!!’??” This highlights just one of the ways that our lives have changed: avoiding the emergency room at all costs, because we know that going there would add to the burden for many hospitals and also risk exposure to the virus.

This desire to avoid the emergency room is also impacting the way that evidence is collected in sexual assault cases — and even the number of people who are seeking care after a sexual assault. According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of patients coming to hospitals after being sexually assaulted. Some forensic nurses are handling the challenges of this situation by conducting exams in clinics and locations outside of emergency departments. Others are asking survivors to collect physical evidence themselves.

At-home sexual assault testing kits emerged in fall 2019 in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The companies that offer these “DIY” rape kits claimed that it was an accurate way for victims and survivors to collect evidence of sexual assault in the privacy of their homes. However, these kits are not the equivalent of an in-person sexual assault exam, which also includes medical care in addition to collecting evidence. For example, during an in-person sexual assault exam, victims and survivors are tested for sexually transmitted infections and can be supported by a specially-trained advocate from a crisis center before, during and after their exam — neither of which is a possibility with an at-home kit.

There are also numerous legal issues with the use of at-home rape kits. As the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) explains, Pennsylvania law requires that evidence in sexual assault cases be collected in a specific way, and within a specific timeframe. Evidence collected through at-home kits would probably not be admissible in court — which means that victims and survivors may be denied justice.

In these challenging times, we know that going to the emergency room may be something that victims and survivors of sexual assault simply do not want to do. The decision to go the hospital — or to not go — is a personal one.

If you have experienced sexual violence, we are here to help. Our hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 1-888-832-2272. All calls are free of charge, confidential, and can be anonymous. Reach out to us at anytime to talk through your options — or simply to get support. Throughout the pandemic, we are still here for you.

HOTLINE: 1-888-832-2272

Learn More: Sexual Assault

How We Can Help

How to Help a Friend

#sexualassaultawareness #howwecanhelp

Since 1976, Blackburn Center has been providing services to victims of domestic and sexual violence and other types of violence and crime in Westmoreland County, and presenting education programs across this community.  You can learn more about types of abuse, our services, or ways to get help if you are a victim of violence or crime.  All of our services are FREE and CONFIDENTIAL, and can be ANONYMOUS.
 

Donate Now
Donate Now
Donate Now
  • Wix Facebook page
  • Wix Twitter page

Blackburn Center

PO Box 398

Greensburg, PA 15601

24-Hour Hotline:

724-836-1122 or

1-888-832-2272

The information on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to take the place of professional services or medical or mental health treatment.

 

Internet Safety: Your visit to our website can be traced by another user of your computer. If visiting this site could put you in danger, please take the necessary steps to erase the records of your visit. Click here to learn more about internet safety.

 

© 2020 |  Blackburn Center Standing To End Violence | PO Box 398 | Greensburg, PA  | 15601  | 724-837-9540

Serving Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania