KGH opens unit for sex-assault victims

By Jennifer Pritchett
Local News - Monday, August 16, 2004 @ 07:00

Kingston General is set to open the city’s first hospital-based sexual assault and domestic violence treatment centre to provide 24-hour emergency medical care, forensic documentation and support for victims.

When the unit opens this week, the centre will become part of a provincially funded network of 34 such treatment facilities across Ontario, including ones in Belleville and Smiths Falls.

The Kingston centre will serve residents of Frontenac and Lennox and Addington counties.

A 12-member team – including seven on-call nurses, a doctor, a part-time social worker, a part-time follow-up nurse, a manager and a clerk – will deliver the program out of a newly created unit at KGH where victims can be treated by staff trained to deal with sexual assault and domestic violence.

It will mean shorter wait times and specialized emergency care for men and women who have experienced a sexual assault or domestic violence.

“We have a dedicated team of sexual assault and domestic violence nurses who are responsible for arriving at KGH emergency within 30 to 45 minutes of being called,” said program manager Donna Joyce, who was hired six months ago to set up the centre.

Before the treatment centre existed, victims were required to wait in emergency with other patients before they were examined by hospital staff.

But the opening of the new unit will mean that when victims arrive at KGH emergency and indicate to the triage nurse they are the victim of a sexual assault or domestic violence, they will be immediately taken to a separate treatment area of the hospital.

In addition to receiving the necessary emergency medical attention, victims will also be provided with options about: whether to call police, whether to have a sexual evidence kit – commonly called a rape kit – completed and whether to have the evidence kit completed and then frozen for six months while they decide whether they want to lay charges.

Joyce stressed that it is the victim, not hospital staff, who decides whether the police are called. The hospital has no legal requirement to call police to report instances of sexual assault or domestic violence against adults.

Victims treated at the new unit are also given the option of whether to have forensic photography taken at the hospital. They are treated for sexually transmitted infections and provided with birth control if pregnancy is a possibility.

For those victims outside Kingston, members of the sexual assault and domestic violence team will travel to area hospitals in Frontenac and Lennox and Addington counties to provide care.

After the initial visit to emergency, nurses and the social worker will put victims in touch with other community organizations such as Interval House, a shelter for women and children, and the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, which provides counselling services for women.

“The social worker and the follow-up nurse have a responsibility to meet the victim within 24 to 72 hours after their initial visit with us,” Joyce said. “It’s their role to connect and co-ordinate the client with the respective community resources.”

Hospital staff commonly treat victims of sexual assault and domestic violence at KGH emergency, she said.

“There is a large proportion of assaults and statistics do indicate that 51 per cent of women are assaulted during their lifetime,” she said. “So the numbers are definitely there.”

Kingston Police crime analyst Ray Lonsdale told The Whig-Standard earlier this year that nearly 40 per cent of the assaults reported by Kingston Police in the last five years were cases of domestic violence.

“We do know that the level of violence is increasing. We are noticing that the amount of violence with weapons is increasing and that’s alarming,” he said.

Though the number of domestic assaults were down in Kingston in 2003, domestic assault has been generally on the rise since 1998 in this city and in other areas, he said.

The problem was highlighted in December when Maureen Nicholson, 39, was murdered by her husband two days before Christmas. Nicholson was shot and killed by Ian Nicholson, 42, a Kingston Police officer, who then killed himself with his police-issue handgun in the couple’s east-end home.

It was the second murder-suicide in Kingston in three years and the fifth in Canada in 2003.

In June 2001, Jeanine Perry, 20, of Amherstview was shot to death by her 28-year-old former boyfriend, Michael Shawn Martin, in the parking lot of the Cataraqui Town Centre before he turned the gun on himself.

Pamela Cross, chairwoman of the board of directors for Kingston Interval House, said a sexual assault and domestic violence treatment centre in Kingston is long overdue.

“I think it’s great – Kingston in fact is late to come on board in Ontario,” she said.

Cross is, however, encouraged by the fact that victims who seek medical attention in Kingston will soon have a more private place to access treatment.

“Prior to these centres opening, a woman who did go to the hospital for either kind of assault would just be left in the general waiting room, which can be pretty awful,” she said.

“Now increasingly, they have access to a private waiting area that gives them some greater privacy. They are working with staff who are trained, skilled and sensitized to the nature of this kind of assault. It requires quite a different set of skills than handling a kid who’s been cut in a hockey game.”

Cross, a lawyer and co-ordinator of the Ontario Women’s Justice Network, ran a legal practice that focused on domestic abuse until four years ago.

She said that having trained nurses to do a sexual evidence kit will help ensure that the information is gathered correctly, which will mean that the police will have more reliable evidence to investigate the crime and lay the appropriate charge.

“So I really welcome this addition to the services that women in Kingston and the area already have,” she said. “We already have a shelter. We have a sexual assault centre – we’re all part of the same team so to speak and really, it does offer women a wider array of choices.”

Cross also pointed out the KGH centre will provide services to men who have been sexually assaulted or have been the victim of domestic violence. “He’s now got somewhere to go,” she said.

Dorothy Evans, a counsellor with the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, agreed that the need for a sexual assault and domestic violence treatment centre in Kingston has existed for a long time.

“There’s a lot of comfort knowing that KGH will provide that service in a more comfortable manner,” she said. “We’re definitely pleased about it.”

Staff and volunteers with the crisis centre accompanied victims of sexual assault to KGH emergency 73 times in 2003, she said.

Victims will often call the centre’s crisis hotline and speak with a volunteer, who will then accompany them to the hospital for treatment.

Evans said the services available at the crisis centre include long-term counselling for victims. She will be working with the team at the new KGH centre to ensure victims who are treated there can access the support services provided at the crisis centre.

Volunteers and staff will also continue to accompany victims to emergency for treatment.

The sexual assault and domestic violence treatment centre at KGH will officially open Sept. 28 but will be accepting patients as early as this week.




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G Writes:

Hmmm ... "A 12-member team – including seven on-call nurses, a doctor, a part-time social worker, a part-time follow-up nurse, a manager and a clerk ...", " ... will serve residents of Frontenac and Lennox and Addington counties."
Funny how the article didn't offer up any specific statistics to illustrate the need within the afore mentioned area for such a service. (As the DV industry can generally be relied upon to even invent such stats if they're not available, one wonders why the alleged justification for this program wasn't shared with the general public who are, after all, footing the bill?)
Why are " ... a manager and a clerk ... " required to be on call when presumably the hospital calling these people in already has same on duty to decide to and then summon these radical feminist parasites in the first place?    
Also, "Before the treatment centre existed, victims were required to wait in emergency with other patients before they were examined by hospital staff." - so it's now an improvement to instead wait until staff arrive?  
Also love how the article goes through the motions of being gender neutral but then can't name any support services for men! All in all, a marvelous example as to the ridiculous waste and politically correct stupidity which are bankrupting both Canada's healthcare system and the suckers paying for it.  - G.