Boulder officials advocate SANE facility for local rape victims

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett (Photo: BoulderCounty.org)

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett (Photo: BoulderCounty.org)

By Stephanie Wolf
For KDVR.com

BOULDER, Colo. — The Boulder District Attorney’s Office has spearheaded a campaign to reinstate a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program in Boulder after a 10-year stretch of not having the procedure available for rape victims at local facilities, according to the Daily Camera.

As stated on the International Association of Forensic Nurses’ website, a SANE unit is staffed with registered nurses who are specialized in working with rape victims and administering the necessary forensic medical examinations pertinent to the corresponding investigations.

Currently, rape victims in Boulder have to be escorted by law enforcement and drive a half-hour or more to either the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland or St. Anthony’s Hospital in Westminster to have the procedure.

“It’s frustrating that we don’t have a convenient SANE facility that the victims can access during a very difficult process,” Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett told the Daily Camera.

Boulder County’s Child and Family Advocacy Center in Niwot used to operate a SANE program. It opened in 1997, and was staffed by nurses trained in these specific procedures. However, it closed in 1999 when its medical director and nurses resigned after a disagreement with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office regarding how a particular sexual assault case was handled.

The Movement to End Sexual Assault (MESA) then stepped in a few years later, providing a SANE unit to residents of Boulder. But insufficient funds prompted it to end the program in 2002.

Boulder County Deputy District Attorney Katharina Booth, the chief of the sexual assault and domestic violence unit with the DA’s office, explained that these examinations are a key component to the prosecution and should be conducted within 72 hours of the inciting incident. According to Booth, more victims might be encouraged to report rape and undergo the examinations if they knew there was a safe and nearby place to go to.

“There’s the comfort zone of being in your own community and friends or victim advocates can get there,” she said.

Lora Atkinson, the executive director of MESA, agreed and added that having a close place for victims to get these tests could help ease some of the trauma they are already undergoing.

While the cause is passionately backed by local officials, Booth and others expressed their concern for sustaining a SANE program in Boulder. Janine D’Anniballe, who was the director of MESA when the initiative lost its SANE unit, said funding is still one of the most troubling issues. She added that she hopes Boulder County will back the program financially as well as morally.

Booth said she has a few other concerns. She mentioned issues like finding a medical facility without religious ties since contraceptives will be administered and keeping SANE qualified nurses on staff due to high turnover rates.

Despite these obstacles, Garnett said he has taken the first steps to Boulder’s acquisition of its own SANE facility by contacting local police chiefs and other agencies. To give this program a fighting chance and ensure longevity, he explained he needs to establish new, strong leadership and get everyone on board.

Read more of this story on the DailyCamera.com