The Jean Scott Transition House in Hope is adding a new Forensic Nursing Service that provides pickup and drop-off for survivors of physical or sexual assault who require forensic testing.
The service extends past Hope to Boston Bar, Agassiz, Harrison and surrounding communities, including Seabird Island and Sts’ailes Band. It aims to encourage reporting of gendered crimes by offering transportation to local medical care and forensic testing services in Abbotsford and Surrey, as well as ongoing emotional support and connection to needed services.
Forensic testing becomes critical if the reported assault is pursued in court.
“In cases where the identity of the assailant, the issue of what sex acts took place or the timing of the sex acts is in question, biological material recovered from the victim and crime scene can be extremely important,” reads the Government of Canada’s website on sexual assault.
Forensic recovery is an asset in cases of physical and domestic violence as well.
In 2014, Statistics Canada reported that only one in 20 sexual assault incidents were reported to police, a number that had gone relatively unchanged since 2004.
The closest hospitals offering forensic testing are in Abbotsford and Surrey, and the distance, along with the intimidation of facing the process alone, could prevent reporting in the area, says house manager Jane Rhodes.
“The reason for this service is because some women were not wanting to report or go for those exams because of the horrendous way that they have to go about it,” she said.
Once an assault is reported, survivors require medical clearance before they can receive a forensic exam. The Jean Scott Transition House will escort women through this initial medical process and call ahead to ensure swift entry into a forensic exam at the hospital, providing emotional support throughout.
“If she wants us to sit in with her, we support her with that [and] if she wants us to wait in the waiting room, that’s really her call,” Rhodes said. “We stay with her through the whole process one way or another and then we transport her back to where she wants to go.
“We would go through a process of determining what she needs and then refer her accordingly. We’re trying to make it as smooth for her or him as possible.”
The Transition House allows survivors to recover and recuperate at its facilities in Hope and connects them with contacts and services to fit their needs following the assault.