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Support, help available to sexual assault victims

As the turmoil and reactions continue surrounding statements made by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), one group that especially stood out did so in a press release submitted by the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

This organization, made up of healthcare professionals who treat victims of sexual violence, specifically their members who are Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), shared their outrage and experience about pregnancy and sexual assault, stating, “SANEs know that pregnancy can and does occur after sexual assault and that the fear of becoming pregnant after an assault is a significant stressor for many of the patients treated daily by SANEs.

The landmark 1996 study published by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology underscores that pregnancy is a very real issue for victims of sexual violence. What’s more, that study also illustrates how few women access healthcare services following a sexual assault — services that today include comprehensive assessment, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, the collection and preservation of forensic evidence, and the provision of emergency contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.”

The Pagosa Springs Medical Center has a comprehensive program as described above. Local Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners (SAFEs) are available 24 hours per day to assist any sexual assault victim in Archuleta County. Forensic exams are conducted for free, with no cost to the victim. It should be noted, too, that victims are also not required to cooperate with law enforcement in order for forensic evidence to be collected.

The possibility of an unintended pregnancy due to a sexual assault is very real, with an estimated 32,101 pregnancies resulting from rape each year. As many as two-thirds of adolescents who become pregnant were sexually or physically abused some time in their lives. In addition to unwanted pregnancy, rape survivors face many long-term health complications, including but not limited to: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, chronic pain and insomnia. Rape has devastating impacts and rippling effects.

The Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program supports victims of sexual assault. If you or anyone you know has been hurt by rape, call us at 264-9075 for free, confidential help.

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