By Regina Kong
In order to increase accessibility to Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) exams in northern Santa Clara County, Stanford has reached an agreement to partner with the County to offer the exams on-campus at Stanford Hospital.
The SART exam — a post-sexual assault medical-evidentiary exam — allows for the collection and preservation of medical evidence of a sexual assault. Such evidence can play an important role for those who choose to pursue criminal action against their assailants.
Stanford’s Sexual Violence Support and Resources website encourages individuals who have experienced any form of sexual or relationship violence to have a medical-legal exam performed by a trained medical professional within 72 hours of the assault. The website currently directs individuals to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) in San Jose for SART exams.
In a Nov. 1 letter addressed to County Supervisor Joe Simitian, University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne wrote that providing SART exams at Stanford Hospital would increase the accessibility of the exam to not only Stanford students, but also to the broader northern Santa Clara community.
“As we have discussed, we look forward to partnering with you on bringing this important service to the northern part of Santa Clara County, to reduce the burden on already traumatized victims who, today, have to travel a long distance to the southern part of the County for their examination,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote in the letter.
Stanford supports individuals who choose to file a Title IX complaint, in addition to providing sexual assault resources such as the Confidential Support Team (CST). However, third-year Ph.D. candidate Emma Tsurkov J.S.M. ‘15, who serves as co-director of sexual violence prevention in the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), said there are still significant difficulties for individuals who are forced to go off-campus to the SCVMC to receive a SART exam, only to encounter long waiting periods.
“Those hours of sitting in the waiting room — waiting for SART exams — are just agony for people,” Tsurkov said. “And some people literally leave. They come, they wait for so long and they leave because they just can’t wait anymore.”
According to Tessier-Lavigne’s letter, negotiations for a center offering SART exams in the north Santa Clara County area began between the University and the County in early 2017. The current agreement reflects updates to a pilot program initially proposed for Vaden Health Center, and will serve a broader community including both Stanford students and north County residents.
According to Tsurkov, the proposed pilot program at Vaden was problematic for several reasons.
“Vaden is not open during the weekends,” Tsurkov said. “They would have [the pilot program] happen at a location that offers no other medical services, which is already a problem because if you need stitches for a laceration in addition to a SART exam you can’t get it there.”
Tsurkov said stigmatization — a commonly cited deterrent against reporting sexual assault perpetrators — would have been amplified by the Vaden location, due to its proximity to several student residences.
“People just won’t go there because they don’t want to be seen by their friends as self-labelling as being assaulted,” she added.
Stanford Hospital will provide the space for the SART exams. However, University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in an email to The Daily that the County will be responsible for “providing nurses with the specialized training required to perform these examinations, as the exams involve the legal collection of evidence for the prosecution of crime.”
Miranda acknowledged that the University could not yet provide some information, as the opening date of the SART exam center and staffing details are currently pending a finalized agreement.
“We look forward to the service beginning as soon as we have a finalized agreement and the county is able to provide the trained nurses to conduct the examinations,” Miranda said.
Contact Regina Kong at reginak ‘at’ stanford.edu.