Oklahomans Use Rape Exams Without Police Report

Tuesday, August 18th 2009, 5:43 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Oklahoma passed a law nearly a year ago that allows people to have free sexual assault exams without reporting the assault to police. 

The News On 6 wondered how many people have taken the state up on its offer of an anonymous exam.  

05/20/2008 Related Story: Police Report Not Required For Rape Exam

In Tulsa, 57 people have had a sexual assault exam without making a police report.  The reason for the law is to preserve the evidence in case the person decides later to file a report.  The other reason is to make sure they get medical treatment after an assault, even if they don't want police involved.

There is a room inside Hillcrest Medical Center where the sexual assault exams are done in the City of Tulsa, by a nurse specially trained in collecting evidence and treating possible sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancies and injuries associated with the assault.  Most times, an assault victim is brought here after calling 911 and contacting police.

But, Oklahoma has a law that allows a person get the exact same exam and care, without ever letting law enforcement know.

People don't want to report it for a variety of reasons.

"They're embarrassed.  They don't want other people to know about it.  That's the main one.  They don't want others to know. They're ashamed it happened to them. Those are the three most common," said Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Kathy Bell.

Since the law went into effect in November of 2008, 57 people have gotten an anonymous exam.  Of those, 49 were women, eight were men.  About half of them were between 18 and 25 years old.

"A lot of them that come in aren't sure if something happened. It may have involved drugs and alcohol or suspect drugs and alcohol were used to accomplish the assault," said Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Kathy Bell.

Tulsa's policy is to save the evidence for 90 days in case the victim does decide to file a report.  Only two have done so.  The evidence is stored by number, not names.

"So, that's how it becomes an anonymous report.  Their name is never associated with anything law enforcement sees," said Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Kathy Bell.

To request a free, anonymous sexual assault exam, victims can call the hotline at 743-5763. A nurse will meet the victim at the private exam room at Hillcrest.  The $500 exam fee is paid for by the Oklahoma Crime Victim's Compensation Board.

The evidence is collected and saved, but it is not tested until a police report is actually filed.