CrimeWatch: Sexual Assault Response - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

CrimeWatch: Sexual Assault Response


Sex crimes investigators now have a little more time when it comes to gathering evidence.

A guideline change gives sexual assault survivors more time to get a forensic exam. Austin Travis County's Sexual Assault Response Resource Team, or SARRT, recently extended the time from four days to five.

Sgt. Liz Donegan with the Austin Police Department's Sex Crimes Unit is part of SARRT. "Through the gathering of evidence, or the documentation of evidence, the victim's medical history, it's just another piece for us and if there was another opportunity for evidence to be retrieved or documented, then we thought that we should go with the additional day."

She says a 2005 law allows sex assault victims to be examined without reporting the crime to law enforcement. And this new guideline can be flexible.

"If there are extenuating circumstances such as it's an elderly victim or we think there's an opportunity to gather evidence that we can photograph, then we would certainly go pass the 120 hours."

In Travis County, sexual assault victims are brought to the emergency room at St. David's Medical Center where they have a room dedicated for exams. Inside the room, evidence collection kits and clothes, in case survivors’ clothes are needed for evidence.

Jenny Black is one of ten sexual assault nurse examiners in Austin Travis County. They are the only ones who conduct examinations on survivors. She sees about 30 patients a month.

"It lets us expand our services to care for more people. It helps them into the system where there's a lot of follow up and a lot of care as well as the medical services that we provide and collecting of evidence for criminal prosecution case so it's helpful in a lot of ways."

If you have any questions, you can call SafePlace, a non profit group that provides safety for those affected by sexual abuse. A SafePlace volunteer also shows up at the hospital after an attack to help survivors. They have a 24 hour hotline, 267-SAFE or 267-7233.

Follow Jenni on Twitter @jennileefox7.

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