New facility opens for sexual assault and violence victims

May 1, 2019

South Peninsula Hospital Forensic Nurse Colleen James sits in the new Center for Excellence.
Credit Renee Gross, KBBI News

There’s a new facility in town for those who have experienced violence and sexual assault. The Center for Excellence aims to provide more comfortable and private care for both adult and children who are victims.

South Peninsula Hospital Forensic Nurse Colleen James gave a tour of the new Center for Excellence during an open house.  

“This is a room, the talking room, so that people can come in this space, and it's comfortable. It's called more of a soft interview room,” she said.

The building is designed to accommodate everything a person might need after they’ve experienced violence, sexual assault or child abuse. There is a medical exam room but there’s also a space for professionals to conduct interviews and a comfortable waiting room for family.

And this wasn’t your typical open house. Only certain members of the medical community, child services and other professionals were invited. The building itself does not have any signs or markers displaying what it is. The exact location is also being kept secret, and James said that’s for a reason: to provide privacy for patients who just experienced trauma.  

“It's very secure,” she said. “It's very safe.”

James along with other employees from the South Peninsula Hospital and Haven House began working toward opening the new facility back in 2016. She said that’s when new national standards came out for working with victims of violence.

“The standards were pretty specific that we needed to become very victim centered and that we needed to provide privacy,” she said.

The way the Sexual Assault Response Team, a group of area professionals that evaluate and treat victims of sexual assault and violence, was handling cases didn’t align with those standards. Previously, patients would go to Haven House for an interview and then to the emergency room for an exam.

“That's not a very private place and it's a very busy place,” she said. “And when people are having a significant stress in their life, they've been physically assaulted. The last place that they need to be as an in the emergency room.”

Now, once patients make a report to the police, Haven House or the hospital after they’ve experienced violence, they will be directed to this building – then a team of professionals will arrive to meet them.

Lindsey Collins with Haven House is one of the professionals who may be there.

“So the team for when it's a child, so child sexual abuse, the multidisciplinary team is made up of staff from the Children's Advocacy Center at Haven House, which is what this is. And then if it is something that happened in the Home Office of Children's services is involved and if it's something that happened out of the home, then whatever appropriate law enforcement is involved.”

Nurses from SPH and other medical professionals will also be on hand. Collins hopes the building will increase the use of best practices for everyone.

“Depending on what discipline we’re from, medical, law enforcement, advocacy to really help a victim from the beginning to the middle to the end of a case,” she said. “And to be able to refer a victim to additional services that they need and really ultimately to help them heal.”

Others said they hope by providing the upmost care, they will decrease the barriers victims face when reporting assault. The center will be open in the next couple of weeks.