Increasing the Accessibility of Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations: Evaluation of Texas Law SB 1191

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Introduction:Texas SB 1191 was enacted in 2013 with the intent of increasing access to medical forensic examinations for sexual assault victims by requiring every hospital with an emergency department to be prepared to provide a medical forensic examination if requested by a sexual assault victim. To realize that goal, the law also required basic forensic training for medical professionals before conducting a medical forensic examination as well as a requirement that hospitals develop a “plan to train personnel on sexual assault forensic evidence collection.”Methods:Interviews were conducted in 18 healthcare facilities (five with sexual assault nurse examiner [SANE] programs and 13 without SANE programs) in Dallas, Lubbock, and Austin to determine their awareness and compliance with SB 1191.Results:The data suggest that the law had a little effect on actual practice, and sexual assault survivors still sought a SANE program for a medical forensic examination.Discussion:Although SB 1191 is an important state level effort to make forensic examinations more readily available, it did not fully account for the challenges faced by smaller hospitals that do not see enough sexual assault victims to justify training staff to SANE standards and did not adequately address the training required by medical professionals to feel prepared to conduct a medical forensic examination.

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