Rape victims can now get a free rape exam, even if they don't want to file a police report. The new federal requirement goes into effect in 2009, although Oklahoma's law began providing for Jane Doe rape exams last November. The News On 6's crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports on how the system works.
In Tulsa, forensic rape exams are done at Hillcrest Hospital. Victims don't have to sit in emergency room waiting rooms. They have a private entrance, and a specially trained nurse.
The problem was some victims wouldn't decide until weeks or months after the attack to report it and by then, it was too late to collect hair, semen and other samples. This way, the evidence is preserved and victims have time to get past the initial trauma before deciding whether to prosecute.
Tulsa averages 350 rape reports every year. Most are not stranger attacks, but someone the victim knows. Some victims don't want to report the crime, either out of fear, shame or trauma. Those who didn't report, were not given a forensic exam, but now, they are.
"In the past, you couldn't have a medical exam without a police report and so, if you didn't want to prosecute, you couldn't have the exam so now, at least, they get the medical attention they need," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Gary Stansill.
Now, victims can get checked for pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and get treatment for any injuries, all for free, and still not file a police report.
That also means the evidence is bagged, collected and saved for 90 days in Tulsa to give the victim a chance to decide whether to proceed with the case. No name is used, just a number.
"We do not know who these individuals are, they are completely anonymous to us," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Gary Stansill.
The exams cost $500 each and must be paid for by the state under the new federal requirement that goes into effect nationwide in 2009. So far, 23 people have taken advantage of the anonymous rape exams in Tulsa since Oklahoma's law began last fall. Four of them were men.
"One, we had one case where the victim later changed her mind and made a police report and we have a procedure where that evidence was added to her police report," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Gary Stansill.
Rape victims can call police and request the exam or bypass police altogether.
They shouldn't just show up at a hospital, though. They need to call Call Rape and that agency will tell victims where to go at Hillcrest and will contact a sexual assault nurse examiner and a volunteer to meet the victim and help them through the process.
The number for Call Rape is 744-RAPE or 744-7273.