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New sexual assault unit for SE
[Posted: Fri 15/10/2004 www.irishhealth.com]
By Deborah Condon
A new 24-hour service for rape and sexual assault victims in the South East region is now in operation. Until now, victims of an assault were forced to travel to Dublin and Cork for these services, unless a doctor trained in forensic examinations could be found.
The new sexual assault treatment unit (SATU) is based at Waterford Regional Hospital. Any victim of an alleged assault who reports the incident to the Gardai may be seen (with their consent) at the unit for a forensic examination. Such an examination is necessary if the case is to be processed by the criminal justice system.
Speaking to irishhealth.com, Sheila Vereker of the Rape Crisis Centre's Waterford branch, said that calls for this service began in 1999, when one female victim was forced to wait 11 hours to be seen, as a doctor trained in forensic examinations could not be found.
"As most people know, one of the first things a victim wants to do is wash themselves, so you can imagine how distressing this wait was", Ms Vereker explained.
At the time, she said, there very few doctors in the region who were trained in forensic examinations, however since then, 16 GPs have been trained in this area.
The SATU in Waterford Regional Hospital will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A clinical nurse manager will be available from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday, to provide information and support, liaise with other services, make referrals on behalf of the client and deal with any enquiries.
Outside of these hours, the service will operate on an on-call basis. This will be provided by a team of GPs, nurses and Rape Crisis Centre volunteers.
A 24-hour forensic screening service will be available to clients up to and including seven days after the alleged assault. This service will include treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI) where possible, referral for STI screening and emergency contraception.
"We are absolutely thrilled with the establishment of this service and apart from helping people in this region, it will hopefully take some of the pressure off the Dublin and Cork units too", said Ms Vereker.
However while the SATU will hopefully help victims in this region, she added, some parts of the country continue to have poor access to such services, increasing the trauma faced by rape and sexual assault victims.
The Rape Crisis Centre can be contacted at (freephone) 1800 778 888.
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