Statewide program to help victims of sexual assault launching in the Spring

Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 4:05 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2022 at 6:25 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new pilot program is set to take effect in the state later this Spring, the first of its kind in the country. Advocates believe it would help support victims of sexual assault during their most vulnerable moments.

Beginning in April, hospitals will be able to identify as part of the “Sexual Assault Forensic Excellence” designation system or “SAFE.”

It’s also open to law enforcement agencies and communities as well.

Amanda Brown, the statewide forensic nurse examiner program coordinator for the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network, says the hope was to pursue legislation mandating training, but there was pushback in Columbia.

“Some other states have mandated legislation and they’re having some difficulties with making that happen because it is mandated,” she said.

SCVN has worked with both the hospital association and the AG’s office to establish the SAFE system. Brown says the program would still allow the state to set the standard for victim aftercare.

“South Carolina is behind the times in so many things, we definitely would like to be ahead of something,” Brown said. “So, our plan is to try and take a statewide approach to it, hospitals, EMS, fire, law enforcement, advocacy. All of them will be able to apply to be able to say that they are SAFE designated.”

Designated institutions would either have employees that have undergone specific training such as evidence preservation and trauma informed care or partnerships with those that do.

A Live 5 News investigation last year revealed in South Carolina there were only 122 forensic or sexual assault nurse examiners statewide.

Brown says this is a vital need.

“There’s too many instances where victims are being turned away or not receiving the treatment that they deserve when they go to the emergency room,” she said.

Though it’s not mandated, Brown hopes organizations across the state will join because it’s the right thing to do.

The program is scheduled to roll out on April 1, when sexual assault awareness month begins.

A state rape kit tracking program is also slated to begin later in June.

Hospitals that join up until the end of this year can get free training for employees through the victim assistance network.

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