Lack of trained nurses in sexual assault response leads to victims turned away from local hospitals

By Reann Fournier, Special to The Record
Lack of trained nurses in sexual assault response leads to victims turned away from local hospitals

The Fleurimont hospital recently turned away an 18-year-old sexual assault survivor twice in two days due to a lack of available nurses trained in sexual agression response. This is not an isolated incident and, according to the Help Center Fighting Against Sexual Assault (CALACS Estrie), there is a serious lack of nurses trained to respond to survivors and able to perform the proper procedures to obtain a sexual assault legal kit.
Amélie Beaulieu, one of the interveners at CALACS, said that of the 2,893 women that the organization has assisted this year, 1,059 were appointments for follow-up meetings, support for victim’s loved ones, and emergency support. From April 2020 to October, 22 women were accompanied for sexual assault legal kits.
In a press release on Oct. 9 the CIUSSS de l’Estrie-CHUS said that there would be an internal investigation into the matter and added that measures were immediately put in place to ensure that victims have access to kits and services. They ensured that there are measures in place that offer these services, but there is clearly a systemic issue that is preventing victims from fully accessing these services in a timely manner.
Beaulieu responded, saying that the organisation expects that enough sexual assault nurses will be available 24/7 to complete a kit with all women who require one. “The longer a woman has to wait, the less are the chances traces will be found,” said Beaulieu. “For me, this promise also means that the CIUSS has to ensure good working conditions to the nurses who have training to complete a sexual assault legal kit.”
The junior health minister and Quebec government denounced the situation Wednesday last week at the National Assembly, stating that they must begin “seriously investing in sexual assaults.”
Beaulieu added that CALACS wants to believe that the government will take action. “It is important to always have more women reporting their sexual assault to the police,” she said. “Unfortunately, in our present legal system, it can be very difficult to win a case if there is no proof provided by a kit, meaning it can and does make all the difference in court.”
These procedures are invasive and often come with psychological scars, but they are, more likely than not, the most important piece of a sexual assault legal case. Sexual assault legal kits can provide evidence such as DNA of the aggressor, any STDs that were obtained during an assault, possible pregnancies, and any damaged tissue or injury to the survivors body.
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