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Sexual assault services on campus

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, March 8, 2006

This letter is written in response to the Staff Editorial in the March 2006 Scholastic Magazine entitled “Stifled and Silenced.” The article misrepresented what is presently available to students who are victims of rape or sexual assault.

The opinion stated in the Scholastic Staff Editorial “Stifled and Silenced” misrepresented what is available to students. The editorial did more to discourage any student from seeking care than help the situation by giving erroneous information. The student body would be better served if they were given correct information on how to seek help for this serious crime.

There is care immediately available to support any victim of sexual assault, male or female, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. It is located at the University Health Center, where professional staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the academic year to see students with a myriad of complaints, including those who are victims of rape. The most appropriate care of these patients is to support and refer them to experts in the field. The perception that a gynecologist or a rape crisis center on campus would better meet the needs of the students is erroneous. Gynecologists with practices in the South Bend area refer their patients to the ER for the best care. The Saint Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office attributes much of their success in conviction of rape cases to the expertise of the SANE nurses (Sexual Abuse Nurse Examiner) in the ER.

Students who are referred to the Emergency Department at Saint Joseph’s Regional Medical Center can obtain treatment free of charge (not the $1,000 figure quoted in the editorial) through the Victim Compensation Fund, without any charge to themselves or to their parents or insurance company. The only requirement is to “cooperate with police investigation,” that is, to speak with the police. It does not mean that the student has to prosecute the alleged assailant. Filing a preliminary report alone may help with other victims’ cases.

Just as with any other condition in which a student would benefit from an expert in a particular medical specialty, we refer to experts within our medical community. We will continue to receive and refer students who are victims of rape to experts. We will arrange referrals, accompany the student at their request, act as a liaison or patient advocate in the Emergency Department and provide follow-up care as needed. This follow-up may include referral to the University Counseling Center.

Please, if you or a friend is ever a victim of sexual assault, come to the Health Center where professional staff are available 24/7 and will handle your case confidentially and competently and refer you appropriately. It is best to seek care as soon as possible after the crime. You may also call Sex Offense Services at 574-284-7458.

Patricia BrubakerAssistant Director, Clinical ServicesUniversity Health ServicesMarch 7