Increasing Survivor Access to Emergency Sexual Assault Kits
Not all emergency rooms in the United States offer rape kits, and there is currently no easy, fast, reliable way for a victim or survivor to know which hospitals provide emergency sexual assault response.
All survivors deserve care and justice. But without access to emergency services, survivors often lose their ability to pursue justice or to receive critical physical and emotional care.
One cause of the gap of information is the decentralized nature of the data in this field. Government and non-government entities involved in this work operate at the state level.
There is no nationwide tool to find detailed information on what to expect for sexual assault response in your state or area. For example, Washington State has strong, supportive legislation requiring that survivors be provided an advocate to help bring them to the hospital, give emotional support, provide them information on their options and what to expect from justice and health processes, and share resources for ongoing support. This type of care is not available in all states.
Another cause of the challenge of survivors giving up or not pursuing getting a rape kit is the perception that it will cost money. There is little awareness of the fact that sexual assault kits must be free for survivors.
The CDC estimates that the per-victim lifetime cost of sexual assault is $122,461. When this per-victim cost is multiplied by the estimated 25 million reported adult victims in the U.S. today, we find that sexual assault will cost the economy approximately $3.1 trillion dollars over the lifetimes of those victims.
When a survivor gives up on going to an emergency room or having a rape kit done, they are in most cases giving up the ability to pursue legal justice, since DNA evidence is only able to be collected within certain conditions and a certain window of time.
When a survivor comes to an emergency room for a sexual assault exam, they should be offered an advocate who can walk them through their options and what to expect, and provide care and comfort. When a survivor gives up after an emergency room says 'we don't do rape kits here' they miss out on that human connection and the resources, comfort, and emotional care it brings.
Solutions are needed to put up-to-date information into the hands of survivors and those who support them, and clearly show gaps in sexual assault response resources to inform policy change, federal budgeting and philanthropy to better serve survivors.
Achieve 100% availability of sexual assault kits and nurses in our emergency rooms
Achieve 100% of victims assisted on the FIRST visit to an emergency room
Hospitals, federal and local governments, district attorney victim services teams, nonprofits providing referrals and hotline services victims, and of course, the victims, survivors, families, and loved ones of anyone who has suffered sexual assault.
The key stakeholders are:
Over 7,000 Emergency Rooms in the US
Legislators working on addressing the root causes of this issue
Health Insurance Companies
Advocacy, Support, Justice, and Healing Groups such as RAINN
One of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (RAINN) and at the moment of need, it is unclear which one of the 7,000 emergency rooms in the USA is equipped to offer them help.
Victims of Crime Act
Panorama Global Tech for Social Impact Fund
Contributions from $5 and up available to crowdsource impact:
This solution is currently unfunded. Each state has its own individual challenges in getting this information out to the public. Some states, like Washington fund victim services through the Department of Commerce.
Create a mobile-first, digital map of sexual assault response resources is needed to provide sexual assault survivors and the people who support them with a continuously updated, digital map of urgent response resources, including the nearest sexual assault kit providers. With this tech in the palm of their hand, survivors and the people supporting them can access critical resources when and where they need them. By highlighting gaps in coverage and providing benchmarking, the map could also inform policy change, government budgeting, and philanthropic giving to better serve survivors.
Note: the most current, comprehensive map of sexual assault response resources was published by NBC News in Dec 2020, with data gathered over the course of 2018-2020. It reflects only a snapshot in time which may already be out of date, but it is the best that currently exists. If this resource is helpful to readers, you can find the map here. The challenge of data freshness is one of the main reasons a widget, as proposed, is needed.
The widget can be supported through a network of distribution providers, including nonprofits, hospitals, government agencies, pharmacies, and concerned citizens. Organizations can host the widget at no cost, to make sure that survivors and those who support them find the information they need where and when they need it.
We envision the creation of a “widget” that would allow any website to display the map as a service to the community. The information displayed can be tailored based on geolocation and the organization hosting the widget. For example, a Child Advocacy Center may host the widget and include only information on Pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and services for children. Living on multiple websites means the widget also improves Search Engine Optimization so survivors find the information no matter where they’re searching.
Nurses, trusted organizations and selected individuals will be able to continuously update the information in the map (crowdsourcing) via their mobile device and using proper authentication.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) - https://www.rainn.org/statistics/scope-problem
National Sexual Violence Resource Center - https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics
Center for Disease Control Study - 'Lifetime Economic Burden of Rape Among U.S. Adults' - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28153649/
From Darkness to Light - Leah Griffin, Sexual Assault Reform Advocate
Giving Tech Labs - https://giving.tech/