By Camryn Pak
In order to provide support to residents of Santa Clara County who have been sexually assaulted, the newly-opened Stanford Hospital has partnered with the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center to open a 24-hour Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) center.
The center is set to open in 2020 and will be accessible as early as February, according to a County press release. It will serve all Santa Clara County residents and is a closer alternative for those living in the northern part of the County. Currently, victims of sexual assault must travel to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose in order to receive a forensic exam.
This new SAFE center could help Stanford students who have been sexually assaulted, especially those who may not have the means of leaving campus following a traumatic event. Victims previously seeking transportation to receive a forensic exam in San Jose — a trip that could take 20 minutes to an hour — had to seek the help of Stanford’s Confidential Support Team or the campus police. This process could result in accessibility issues for these exams, which are designed to be administered within 72 hours after a victim is assaulted.
The new SAFE site will be located much closer in Stanford Hospital’s emergency room and will allow victims of sexual assault to undergo exams performed by trained nurses from the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. These victims are not required to report the assault to the police prior to receiving the exam. The exams will allow for DNA and physical evidence to be collected.
Talks for this project began in 2017 when Stanford proposed to the County a pilot clinic through the University’s Vaden Health Center that would provide SAFEs.
According to The Palo Alto Weekly, however, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian expressed in a letter to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne that the proposed center had several limitations — it would only cater to victims who were assaulted only within locations under the Stanford Department of Public Safety and would only be available on the weekends. Tessier-Lavigne agreed with Simitian’s concerns and acknowledged the need “to serve the broader community as soon as possible.”
The announcement of the partnership follows an upsurge in instances of sexual violence — according to The Mercury News, there has been a 58% increase from 2015 to 2018 in the number of reported sexual assaults in the County. Meanwhile, 14.2% of respondents to Stanford’s campus climate survey reported experiencing at least one incident of nonconsensual sexual contact during their time at Stanford. Stanford has also recently seen an increase in reports of potential druggings and assaults and criticism for how the administration addresses sexual violence.
In 2018, the collaboration between Santa Clara County and the newly-opened Stanford Hospital was solidified. Although the hospital was still under construction at the start of this initiative, Tessier-Lavigne announced that the Stanford Hospital would offer a space for these forensic exams to be conducted.
In working towards making these forensic exams more accessible, Santa Clara County also has made efforts to launch another SAFE site to serve south county residents in addition, according to The Palo Alto Weekly. The County has also increased the number of full-time staff and on-call nurses for the initial SAFE clinic at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.