An Interview With Nevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence Executive Director, Andrea Sundberg
According to RAINN, 60% of sexual assaults are not reported. Unfortunately, many of these victims later wish they had reported the crime. By getting an anonymous rape kit done, victims have the opportunity to decide whether to go forward with reporting without feeling pressured to make an immediate decision.
CAASA recently had an opportunity to interview Andrea Sundberg, Director of the Nevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence, in regards to the most common questions surrounding anonymous rape kits. Because sexual assault crimes are so underreported, we hope that these answers will give victims the insight they need when requesting an anonymous exam after a rape.
We know that the approval of anonymous rape kits is fairly recent, is there a state or county protocol for anonymous rape kits or sexual assault exams?
Back in January of 2009, a federal law was put into place which stated that law enforcement could no longer require a sexual assault victim speak with law enforcement, or report a sexual assault, in order to have her exam paid for. Nevada already had a law in place in which communities were not charging for exams. In Nevada, the community in which the rape occurred is responsible for payment. If a rape were to occur in Humboldt county, but the victim travels to Reno for her exam, Humboldt county would still be responsible for that exam.
Is there a difference in anonymous rape kits and anonymous sexual assault exams?
Anonymous rape kits and anonymous sexual assault exams, also called Jane Doe kits, are the same thing. These exams go by various names, usually depending on the community.
As our state coalition, have you noticed a rise in anonymous reporting?
Since January of 2009, we are aware of 31 cases in which a victim has come forward for anonymous reporting. Of those, only 6 have denied going through with the investigation. Anonymous reporting allows for victims to change their minds days/weeks after the occurrence. They can later decide to go forward with reporting and have the evidence available.
What can we do, as advocates, to help get the word out that anonymous kits and exams are available?
Communities with advocacy programs find that victims are more willing to come forward, as advocates are available to explain the process to them. Anonymous reporting allows advocates and law enforcement to work together to create stronger cases.
To be sure our information is current - a sexual assault exam can be 'shelved' in the crime lab for one year before any evidence is unusable?
It depends on the type of evidence. Dried evidence, such as dried blood or semen, can actually last longer. Refrigerated evidence is good for only one year. It is up to each community to determine how long to store evidence. I believe that in Washoe county, they hold the evidence for 4 months, at which point they will contact the survivor, or have an advocate contact the survivor, and ask if they want to go forward.
What if law enforcement has already been called to meet with the survivor by the hospital, but the victim wants the exam to be anonymous?
Law enforcement can not force a victim to speak with them in order to have the exam paid for. However, they can pick up rape kits, evidence and take any statements the nurse gives them. Some law enforcement officials find anonymous rape kit reporting to be challenging as they did not get to interview the victim. This can be related to an anonymous 911 call. Say someone calls anonymously and says they heard gun shots around a specific area of town. Law enforcement arrives at the scene, finds gun shot holes or casings and blood. They collect evidence and go forward with their investigation, despite having a victim, all based on an initial report.
This column is not is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice or treatment.
Community Advocates Against Sexual Assault
P.O. Box 1338
Winnemucca, NV 89446
The mission of CAASA is to empower those victimized by sexual violence through advocacy and crisis intervention and to raise awareness in the community about the cause, impact, and prevention of sexual violence. CASA supports and promotes court appointed volunteer advocacy to protect the rights of abused and neglected children.