The Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault (GNESA) has been closely monitoring updates and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as state and local governments regarding the continuing spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). As our communities prepare for the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), sexual assault programs are preparing as well. The health, safety and well-being of survivors, sexual assault center staff, volunteers and community members are our focus.
GNESA staff will be working remotely until further notice; however, we will continue working on a daily basis to support survivors through supporting sexual assault centers statewide. We understand that this is a challenging time for survivors and the centers that support them. Communities as well as centers may have to find creative ways to support survivors during this time. GNESA supports our centers efforts in navigating this challenging terrain.
At this time, GNESA has cancelled or rescheduled our in-person trainings, meetings and technical assistance projects to decrease the risk of infection. We will continue to operate through online services, email and phone calls. Please feel free to reach out to us via 404-815-5261 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
To find a local program near you, please click here or call RAINN at 800-656-4673. For urgent matters, please call 911.
For victim service programs, click here to check out our COVID-19 resource page.
United Way COVID-19 Relief Fund Please call 1-866-211-9966 to find local resources for help with rent, bills and food.
It has come to the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault’s (GNESA) attention recently, correspondence from a business promoting the use of do-it-yourself (DIY), at-home sexual assault evidence collection kits have been distributed throughout various states. GNESA is writing to express our continued concern for these over-the-counter rape test kits. Despite the national COVID-19 pandemic, we object to any promotion, sale, free distribution, or use of the DIY sexual assault evidence kit for the following reasons:
● The medical forensic exam comprises significantly more than evidence collection. Exams focus on the health and well-being of the survivor. No aspect of the DIY kit addresses pregnancy, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention, or the short- or long-term physical and mental health consequences that result from sexual violence victimization.
● DIY kits discourage the survivor from seeking critical health care and advocacy services.
● DIY kits are falsely marketed as an easy way to collect “evidence” when no reason exists to believe the “evidence” collected would be admissible in a court of law.
● The Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A. §17-5-72) states that: A victim shall have the right to have a free forensic medical examination regardless of whether the victim participates in the criminal justice system or cooperates with law enforcement in pursuing prosecution of the underlying crime. A victim (patient) “shall not be required to pay, directly or indirectly, for the cost of a forensic medical examination. The cost of a forensic medical examination shall be paid for by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Crime Victims Compensation program (https://cjcc.georgia.gov/victimscompensation). The Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner shall maintain chain of custody of all forensic evidence until all evidence is turned over to the receiving law enforcement agency (unless other arrangements are made based on a community’s protocols or procedures). We believe in a victim centered approach in supporting survivors. This support includes but not limited to appropriate medical, victim advocacy and law enforcement services provided by trained professionals. Survivors deserve no less.
Despite the challenges that COVID-19 presents, a patient who has experienced sexual assault—like any person experiencing a health emergency—will have access to the examination and treatment they need. Sexual Assault Nurse/Forensic Examiner (SANE) programs are open and caring for patients, adapting the location and delivery of care as needed. SANEs/SAFEs are working closely and collaboratively with emergency departments, advocacy, and law enforcement to ensure the patient knows where to receive care. Clinicians have a responsibility to remove barriers to care for all patient populations across the lifespan. During this moment of the national pandemic, we must continue to express fidelity to patients by ensuring essential access to trauma-informed medical care and justice for patients who experience violence. We find it unconscionable that companies are taking advantage of this national emergency to create barriers to critical medical care by promoting incorrect, misleading, and potentially harmful information. If you have any questions or concerns you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact GNESA at (404) 815-5261 or email at email@example.com.