24/7 sexual assault exam team to launch in 2020 in Palo Alto

(AP Graphics)

Beginning early next year, Santa Clara County and Stanford Health Care will staff a 24-hour Sexual Assault Forensic Exam team and provide rape crisis advocates in Palo Alto. 

The specially trained team of on-call nurses from Santa Clara Valley Medical Center will begin working as early as this coming February at the new Stanford Hospital.

The expansion of survivor services comes amid a 58-percent increase in reported sexual assaults in the county from 2015 to 2018, according to the county. 

"For the people who have already been traumatized, asking them to go to a remote location that is unfamiliar, away from friends, family, and home in their own community, I just think that further aggravates the trauma," Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian said in a statement. 

"I'm hopeful that having a SAFE site here in a more familiar environment, closer to home, can lessen some of that trauma," Simitian said. 

The new Stanford Hospital opened in November. SAFE exams are also offered at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose. 

"This partnership with Santa Clara County has allowed Stanford Health Care the opportunity to provide a private and supportive setting in our new emergency department where the county's sexual assault response team can deliver the highest level of compassionate care," David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care, said in a statement. 

"We're proud to make this important service available to our surrounding community, which will help patients obtain this essential care more easily," Entwistle said.

The new program offering comes after the county's Board of Supervisors voted in September on two funding increases totaling about $2.3 million, $600,000 in early September and then an additional $1.7 million later, to expand services at its two rape crisis centers, YWCA Silicon Valley and Community Solutions.

"It is heartening to see that in Santa Clara County, we have leaders who are responsive to addressing gaps in critical services for survivors of violence, and that we have strong partnerships to then deliver on those service gaps," Tanis Crosby, CEO of YWCA, said in a statement.

The county also in September approved the creation of a new office to support survivors in the Office of Gender-Based Violence.