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COVID surge creating difficulty for Franklin rape survivors to get forensic exams

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The surge of COVID-19 is impacting the ability for a rape or domestic abuse survivor to get a forensic exam, according to ASSIST Indiana, a crisis intervention center.

The organization says survivors in Franklin, on average, have to travel 40 to 90 minutes to get the exam and that’s only if hospitals have open beds.

“You’re gonna drive all the way to Shelbyville; they’re packed in there. They don’t have SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurses available. They’ll have to drive all the way to Franciscan (Health in Indianapolis). If they don’t have anyone available, they’ll have to go to (IU Health) Methodist (Hospital),” said Bill Rosier, chief executive officer of ASSIST Indiana.

Rosier tells I-Team 8, depending on the type of exam needed can mean time is of the essence to get the exam done. In most cases, ASSIST Indiana says, it’s crucial for exams to be done the same day.

“If they’re within a time frame that, you know, that rape kit can be successful, but if it’s outside of that time frame, the evidence is just gone,” Rosier said. “Those brave souls that do try to go in there and get the examinations, if they so choose to have forensic examinations done. That takes a lot of courage.”

A spokesperson with IU Health tells I-Team 8, “There are five Centers of Hope in the Marion County area. At both Methodist and Riley hospitals, victims of rape who present to the emergency department are prioritized and moved from the ED to the Center of Hope rooms as soon as possible. The only time the process changes is if the forensic nurse is examining another patient/victim or if the patient is medically unstable.”

Rosier says 85% of cases go unreported and despite a COVID surge, they want to create another resource where victims in Franklin can seek help.

“The showers that you want to have (has to be) a very large strength, because you don’t want any water standing. When you take a shower, you want it to all go away. It’s all part of the process of therapy.”

Starting in March, ASSIST Indiana will be providing forensic exams for all ages from their facility in Franklin. They are also building a compatible shower for survivors to use after the exam. Rosier says the ability to have the exam and shower in the heart of Franklin will help eliminate some of the travel time.

“The most courageous thing you can do is walk through our front door,” Rosier said. “The scar won’t leave you, but the trauma can definitely be dealt with, through us.”

Rosier says just one forensic exam can cost into the thousands of dollars. He says the organization is funded by grants but still needs to community help. If you would like to donate to their cause or you or someone you know is in need of their services visit their website.

If you are in need of a forensic exam any of the Marion County Centers of Hope, listed below, are available to assist. You can also visit Community Hospital Anderson.

  • Community Health Network
  • St. Vincent Indianapolis
  • Eskenazi Health
  • Franciscan St. Francis Health
  • IU Health