More nurses trained to examine and care for sexual assault victims are moving to meet the demand created by Utah’s high rate of rape.
The area’s oldest group dedicated to providing the exams is moving into a new home in Ogden and has begun performing exams in Davis County as well.
Meanwhile, a crisis shelter based in Kaysville has started its own sexual assault exam program, citing greater demand in Davis County.
Jeanlee Carver, director of Northern Utah Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, said her agency is moving into new quarters at the Weber-Morgan Health Department, 477 23rd St.
Victims have a private entrance to use and will receive the same care and comfort they got at the group’s old location in South Ogden, she said.
NUSANE had to scramble to find a new location after South Ogden City decided last fall to sell its old city hall, where the nurses had been based at a reduced rent for more than a decade.
“We feel very grateful” for the new location, she said, praising Weber County officials for being accommodating.
And in Davis County, Safe Harbor Crisis Center recently announced it had started a similar effort, called Davis Nurse Examiners.
“One important statistic is that Utah is the highest state in the nation for domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Safe Harbor’s director, Kristen Floyd.
One in three Utah women are victims of sexual assault, compared to one in four nationally, according to Floyd.
Utah crime data showed the state saw a more than 11 percent increase in rape in 2017, when rates of other major crimes declined. Rape is the only violent crime in Utah that has a higher rate than the rest of the nation, according to the data.
Safe Harbor’s sexual assault victim advocates responded to about 60 cases in 2018, and 32 already this year, Floyd said, while Davis law enforcement agencies in 2018 responded to more than 600 sexual violence-related calls.
The new exam nurse team has a medical director, a full-time nurse coordinator and 17 on-call nurses, Floyd said.
The exam nurses are specially trained to collect evidence that can be used in criminal prosecutions.
While NUSANE and Safe Harbor are reporting their program advancements, the process has not been without contention.
Safe Harbor issued a press release May 20 announcing formation of its nurse examiners unit.
In an interview, Floyd said, “We acquired a special room at (Intermountain) Layton Hospital. The exams are very traumatic, especially in an ER right next to someone getting a broken bone set.”
Asked about NUSANE, Floyd said Safe Harbor has no relationship with the Ogden organization.
With nurse examiners now on duty in Davis County, local victims “won’t have to be transported all over the place,” Floyd said.
She said Safe Harbor had been referring victims to NUSANE in 2018 “but it created some challenges” and “wait times were extensive.”
Carver, in Ogden, when asked about Safe Harbor’s new operation, said, “We were blindsided.”
She said Intermountain officials approached her 14-year-old group several years ago about setting up an exam room in the planned Layton hospital “when that hospital was just a vision.”
Carver said NUSANE worked with Intermountain to establish the Layton exam room but she and Floyd clashed last year over use of the new room by NUSANE nurses and Safe Harbor’s victim advocates.
“So then Safe Harbor decided to start a (nurse examiners) team,” Carver said.
“Intermountain is providing this room — they don’t care who uses it,” Carver added.
Floyd did not immediately respond to a message inquiring about Carver’s comments.
In the earlier interview, Floyd said Safe Harbor is also working with Davis Hospital and Medical Center to establish an exam room there, and would like to do the same at other hospitals in the county.
She said police and prosecutors in Davis County have been receptive to working with her examiners’ group.
Carver said several law enforcement agencies in northern Davis county have chosen to continue working with NUSANE.
She said her examiners will continue to see patients in Intermountain’s Layton hospital and will continue to serve victims from anywhere in Northern Utah.