No matter where a rape might occur in the city, the victim is forced to go to Nashville General Hospital for a forensic medical examination—a practice that’s outraged some women’s advocates, who say it adds to the trauma of the crime.
If a woman is beaten and raped, she would be taken to the nearest hospital for the fastest treatment. But once her condition is stabilized, she would learn that she has to schlepp to General Hospital to undergo the examination, which is essential as part of the evidence against her attacker if he’s ever arrested.
To the astonishment of some officials connected to law enforcement in Nashville, General Hospital is the only one in the city offering the rape exams—that is, with one exception: Vanderbilt Medical Center also gives the exams, but only to the university’s students or faculty.
“Obviously if you’ve just been through a traumatic experience and you’re from another part of town, going to General Hospital can be a pretty intimidating thing,” says one official who asked for anonymity for fear of offending officials at General.
“The riffraff have to go to General,” another official complains. “They’ll do it at Vandy for the students and professors but not for me if I’m raped. I can just go to General with the other commoners. It’s outrageous.”
Tim Tohill, president of the Nashville Rape Crisis Center, says, “Women should be able to go to any hospital in town and be served in an appropriate way. These are individuals who have experienced a rape and are traumatized in a horrible way and then they run into additional problems. That’s unfortunate.”
Police go along with the procedure because “it’s more convenient for us having one place to do the exams,” says Lt. Chris Blackwell, who supervises the police sex crime unit. “It actually works better for us.”
A spokesman for the jointly owned St. Thomas and Baptist hospitals says they don’t give rape exams because the police prefer that only General do them. “It’s what detectives want from us and that’s the police procedure,” says the spokesman, Paul Lindsley. “Our policy is to stabilize the patient and transfer them to Metro General. All I can comment on is that we’re trying to do what’s best for the patient. It’s our understanding that Metro General does this better than anyone else.”
Blackwell, however, says police wouldn’t object if other hospitals gave the exams. One official who asked not to be named says the hospitals prefer not to give the exams because many rape victims may not have health insurance and cannot pay for the tests. At General Hospital, the city picks up the costs of the exams.
If hospitals won’t hire their own nurse practitioners to do the exams, then why not have the nurses at General go to rape victims at the other hospitals rather than the other way around? “It’s a logistics issue,” says Sandy Myers, who supervises the eight nurse practitioners who do the tests at General. “It’s just so much easier for us.”
But when Vanderbilt decided five years ago to give the exams at its medical center for students and faculty who had been raped, it agreed to pay General Hospital for Myers’ unit to be on-call to go to the university. “We simply wanted the members of our community to have as many options as possible,” says Linda Manning, director of the university women’s center.
Myers says about 200 rape exams are conducted at General every year and “we don’t go to Vanderbilt that often.” Myers points out that in some other cities the size of Nashville, only one hospital offers rape exams.“When a rape victim has had to come here, there’s not been any complaints or any issues that I’m aware of,” she adds. “If you need open-heart surgery, where are you going to go? St. Thomas. That’s the heart place. If you have a major trauma, where are you going to go? Usually Vanderbilt. That’s what they do best. General Hospital is the rape center.”
Why the concern for this Berry College? Is this some great Constitutional crises within
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