A 29-year-old rape victim is sharing her harrowing story in the hope of raising awareness about the lack of local access to rape kits for victims.
A rape kit, or sexual assault evidence collection kit, provides the opportunity for DNA to be collected that may have been left by the suspect. A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) or forensic examiner who has received specialized training performs the exam to ensure the evidence can be used in court.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the My Ballard team that she was drugged and raped after a night out in Ballard last April and was unable to gain access to a forensic rape examination locally.
“I think it’s way worse than people think. Most women think they would just get over it. That’s not realistic. It destroys your sense of self confidence, it destroys your ability to trust your own judgment,” the woman told King 5 News.
The woman began her night out in Ballard with her friend, and after her friend left, she stopped into a neighborhood bar on the way home. At the bar, she started talking to a man who she believes spiked her drink.
“I barely remember anything about 15 minutes after starting my conversation with the guy. I remember snapshots of the evening but that is all,” says the woman. “I remember walking down the street with him and specifically telling him that I did not want to have sex with him. I remember being on his bed with my feet bound together.”
After fleeing the man’s apartment, dazed and traumatized, she called a friend who drove her home. Hours after the incident she then drove to the closest emergency room at Swedish Medical Center in Ballard.
“The staff at Swedish Ballard told me they do not provide rape kits, that they did not find my injury and sent me away,” the victim told King 5.
King 5 News received the following written statement from the director of the hospital’s emergency department in response to the victim’s complaints:
Similar to other hospitals in King County, Swedish does not have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) onsite.
SANE nurses work with hospitals independently and specialize in forensic exams; evidence they collect is used in potential sexual assault cases. Harborview is the only hospital in King County with practicing SANE nurses onsite.
At the time that the woman came to the hospital, the protocol for sexual assault victims was to refer patients to Harborview for care should the patient wish to do so.
According to the victim, she was too traumatized to drive across town to Harborview and, after telling the staff that she was unable to afford the ambulance transportation that they offered, left feeling deeply let down by the lack of help that she received.
The victim did gather the strength to travel to Harborview the next day and had an examination performed, however, due to the delay evidence was unable to be gathered to bring the accused to justice.
“An exam wasn’t done at least until a full day later when really valuable evidence gets lost. For us in this case that really makes prosecution enormously difficult,” Mark Larson of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office told King 5.
According to King 5, out of the seven emergency rooms in Seattle, Harborview is the only one that is staffed 24 hours a day with a forensic nurse to conduct rape exams and collect evidence using rape kits.
“This is a problem that I really want solved so that I can feel like what I’ve been through means something and helps people. However, at this stage, women need to know that if they are raped in this neighborhood, they need to go to Harborview to get taken care of,” says the victim.