Santa Clara County leaders to focus on timelier processing of sexual assault kits

Santa Clara County leaders are setting their collective sights on establishing a new national standard. The area of focus is a timelier processing of sexual assault kits. 

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and dressed in denim to show solidarity for victims of sexual violence, county elected and appointed leaders gathered at Valley Medical Center to announce they can do better serving people who’ve suffered from this type of crime.
“We are going to ensure we have responsive, survivor-centered response to sexual violence,” said Tanis Crosby, CEO of the YWCA of Silicon Valley.
To that end, District 2 supervisor Cindy Chavez wants to reduce the time it takes to process a Sexual Assault Response Team Evidence Kit, from about three months to about one month.
“We watnt change the way this country thinks about women and victims of these types of crimes. And this is one step to getting us there,” said Chavez.
Currently, victims of rape or sexual assault can consent to a physical exam with a county SART nurse. Evidence is collected by swabs at Valley Medical Center, then tested, which has consistently taken 94 days.
“The patients submit to these exams. They allow strangers to ask them invasive questions, perform invasive procedures. And they do so with the expectation something’s going to happen with that evidence. So to find out nothing’s happened with that evidence can add to that trauma,” said Kim Walker, a registered nurse and a SART coordinator.
Chavez wants the county to spend $400,000 to streamline processing and hire additional staff to speed the turn-around time.
“The crime lab has established a dedicated SART team, a group of analysts that will only handle SART kits,” said Jay Boyarsky, the first deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County. 

Added county Sheriff Laurie Smith, “We know that we’ll get better response for our victims in order to be able to protect the women in this county and all victims of sexual violence.”

Officials say the 1,100 sexual assault survivors each year would benefit from a speedier processing of the SART kits. But supervisor Chavez still has to convince the full board of supervisors to go along with her plan when it meets again May 8.