County renews contract for rape victim exams by expert team in Vallejo

08/03/2017

The contract that funds a team of counselors, nurses and law enforcement officers that provides sexual assault victims with post-trauma and legal aid was renewed last week by the Board of Supervisors, at a higher cost than previous years. The Sexual Assault Response Team, or SART, will continue to provide both adult and child victims with licensed examiners at a Kaiser hospital in Vallejo. The team treats victims from Marin, Solano and Napa Counties, and partners with the nonprofit Community Violence Solutions to review cases in order to ensure that best practices were used during investigations. In the past, sexual assault victims in Marin received post-rape examinations, known as “rape kits,” at Marin General Hospital. But six years ago, the county decided to outsource the exams to Vallejo to ensure that victims were examined by specially trained personnel. Peggy Day, a Point Reyes Station resident who used to work as an emergency room nurse at Marin General, said some nurses there “resented” having to perform rape kits. “These were obstetrics nurses and they didn’t want to be subpoenaed, go to court and have their credentials examined,” she said. Ed Berberian, the county’s district attorney, added that it was not sustainable from a caseload or cost standpoint to do the rape kits at Marin General. And although it can take more than an hour for some residents to travel from Marin to the Vallejo hospital, Cynthia Peterson, the executive director of Community Violence Solutions, said the distance doesn’t deter patients. “It is harder for the victims, but we haven’t had anyone say they wouldn’t go to Vallejo for the services yet,” she said. According to the county’s contract with the hospital, Marin law enforcement officers are made available to transport victims. The $65,000 contract, up from last year’s $45,000, reflects an increase in cost for exam fees. (Currently, examinations cost $2,080.) Lisa Lewis-Javar, SART’s executive director, said the team devises a budget based on assumptions and predictions of sexual assault cases for each of the counties. And the budgets have always been in the red, she said. When SART began in Marin, Ms. Lewis-Javar said they were told to expect about 25 cases a year, but in some years that number was doubled or tripled. According to Mr. Berberian, there were 82 Marin reported sexual assault cases in Marin in 2015; the next year, there were 59. In the first six months of 2017, 28 cases have been reported. Ms. Lewis-Javar said Marin has a lower number of reported cases compared to nearby counties.