In the wake of the past year, it is important to provide continued support for those who have been caught in the devastation of sexual assault. Baylor is currently continuing to uphold the Title IX changes that were enacted in the previous year, despite no longer being held to those standards on the federal level, but there are still countless ways to improve upon Baylor’s reactions to sexual assault. One of the most prominent is the addition of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) on campus, which would allow for the privacy and safety of those hurt, as well as guard against false accusations.
The SANEs are registered nurses who have been specially trained to provide full care to sexual assault patients, competently conduct a medical forensic exam for evidence, have enough expertise to provide a courtroom testimony and be both compassionate and sensitive to sexual assault survivors, according to the Texas Attorney General’s website. The addition of one or more SANEs would greatly improve Baylor’s immediate response to sexual assault as well as help rule out the he-said-she-said situations that are commonly found in sexual assault cases.
Baylor’s Student Senate passed a bill requesting the addition of SANEs in the spring of 2017, but there are many difficulties involved in their addition to campus. These include a limitation on space at Baylor Health Services and a lack of funding, as reported by the Baylor Lariat.
The lack of space could be combatted with specific hours for the SANEs, possibly at different hours than the clinic is typically open. This does seem contradictory to their purpose, as they should be available at anytime a victim should choose to come forward. However, having them available at night, when sexual assault is more likely to happen, would be better than not having any practitioners available at all. Those who are assaulted are encouraged to receive examination prior to 96 hours after their assault, as listed on health service questionnaires, giving them a few days to visit a SANE if they so choose. Having hours later in the day would also make them more available to students, as most classes take place during regular work hours. Because their exams take much longer to perform than general exams, having more than one available would be best to accommodate as many students as possible. Training nurses can cost upwards of $11,000, according to a current sexual assault nurse in Waco, meaning that the budget of Health Services would have to be increased.
A reallocation of funding towards Health Services should be a priority for Baylor. While it is hard to change budgeting in the middle of the semester or year, it is important to make it known that this is where the budget should focus more for the next release of money. SANEs could keep the school from facing further neglect charges, ultimately saving the university more than additional court cases. While this does not protect Baylor fully, it does show increased effort where sexual assault cases are concerned.
The point of a SANE being present on campus is not to decide whether a person has been sexually assaulted, but to provide evidence to a judge and/or jury, who will then have the power to make that decision.
More importantly, SANEs allow for victims to find a trusted space on campus. Having one or more present would open doors for those who have previously felt shut out or placed in the shadows. Hiring or training a nurse specifically for sexual assault shows that we are aware of what happens on and around our campus, and we are willing to take steps to change the culture of the campus. Being the victim of sexual assault is not a silent or blind fight. It must be fought with proper support and evidence.
The nation as a whole is in a state of confusion over what to do with sexual assault. Recent changes by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have created a state of uncertainty, causing lack of structure and lack of understanding among peers and members of government. The university should continue to better their reaction to sexual assault, regardless of what is required by federal government. Baylor has a definite need for safety and delicacy when dealing with sexual assault and the addition of SANEs is a step in the right direction.