Complaints about Stanford’s rape kit program left in limbo
While the new Stanford Hospital is touted as a first-class facility, contradictions over its available services for survivors of sexual assault have prompted government officials to seek answers.
More than a year after the program arrived, in February 2020, stories began to circulate of traumatic experiences when people attempted to access sexual assault forensic examinations (SAFEs), due to the lack of separate, dedicated treatment rooms – the only place managed by Santa Clara County without such a space.
Stanford officials have gone on the defensive as defenders demand solutions.
During June 30 Health and Hospital Committee MeetingAlison Kerr, executive director of clinical operations, told county officials that Stanford staff have not received any complaints about the location’s SAFE reviews. She encouraged survivors to contact them directly.
Kerr and other emergency department heads claimed in a June 22 letter that SAFE services are provided 24/7, including case managers, social workers, private room after medical examinations and emotional and spiritual support. The letter also claimed that there were no survivors waiting in the hall, but rather “priority for a private triage room”.
But when asked by supervisor Joe Simitian to commit to providing a dedicated room, Kerr said she “didn’t feel able to speak on behalf of Stanford Health Care to commit to a separate space” within from the emergency department, explaining that she would first need a moment to speak with senior management.
The HHS committee advised staff to compile a list of items to assess, including finding a better location and training for treatment before and after the exam. This report will come back to staff by the end of July, and monthly meetings will continue through December 2021 to guide next steps.
Simitian has made it clear the priority that medical professionals, including County Director Jeff Smith, who is also a doctor in particular, have placed on controlling Stanford’s existing SAFE program infrastructure.
“The concern here is that these issues will be treated with some urgency and not turn into a long series of conversations when survivors still need these services,” Simitian said. “I’m sitting here in real time trying to brainstorm with all of you how we can make it happen.”
The disconnect between the views of survivors and the Stanford Hospital administration raised additional red flags for sexual assault advocates; Stanford sophomore Aditi Limaye said: “I no longer feel safe referring survivors, friends and people who come to me with these experiences to the SAFE site at Stanford Hospital.”
Still, Stanford law professor Michele Dauber was delighted that health officials at least recognized the deviations from other sites.
“It was a victory for the survivors,” Dauber told San Jose Inside. “The county read Stanford the riot act over the inadequate conditions of its rape kit location and made it clear that Stanford needed to offer a private and dedicated space – which President Tessier-Lavigne had promised in 2018 – or the program will be suspended. “
County health professionals are hopeful that stopping the Stanford program won’t be necessary.
Kim Walker, the nurse manager of the VMC SAFETY team, agreed that a dedicated space would be a helpful priority to address lingering concerns.
“The patient experience is extremely important to survivors,” Walker said. “If we can’t alleviate these issues, then we’ll have to talk about the possibility of suspending the program. “
Because that’s not a decision Walker can make, as only Stanford can give the green light for their own infrastructure, she suggested providing clearer instructions to survivors when they arrive there, so they know what care to expect or ask for.
Lawyers argue that these conversations are long overdue.
In November 2018, university president Marc Tessier-Levine said staff “have determined that space can be provided at the existing Stanford hospital and clinics,” according to documents obtained by San Jose. Inside. In addition, emails obtained by this news organization showed that he was personally informed on June 11 of the last traumatic experience of the SAFE exam, in which he was “very concerned about the survivor experience that you have detailed below “.
Paul Lorenz, CEO of the Santa Clara Health and Hospital System, said he hopes communications with Stanford mean they are ready to come to the table immediately to resolve the lingering issues of assault survivors. , through all the back and forths.
“Whether direct or indirect, we have an obligation to follow up to ensure that concerns about the Stanford experience are addressed,” Lorenz said. “Instead of rolling out something, let’s take a step forward and try to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.”