You can help increase sexual assault convictions

Published 12:01 am Saturday, December 1, 2012

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Medical Foundation is currently raising money for equipment that could help local law enforcement increase the number of convictions of sex offenders.

The equipment, which will include a colposcope or specialized digital camera, office supplies, an exam table and a light staining equipment, will be used by Natchez Regional Medical Center nurses who will be trained specifically to handle sexual assault cases.

The nurses will be a part of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, will conduct examinations of sexual assault victims and be trained on how to properly collect evidence and testify as an expert witness about the evidence.

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Barbara Willis, chief nursing officer for NRMC, help set up a similar program at a hospital in Texas before joining NRMC’s staff.

“The convictions (for sexual assaults) almost doubled,” she said.

Natchez Alderwoman and NRMC Director of Physician Relations Sarah Smith said sexual victims are often re-traumatized during a post-rape examination. The nurses, she said, will be trained so that victims are not further traumatized.

Willis said the examination room will have a shower so victims can bathe after an examination, and the room will be next to the hospital’s security desk so the victims feel safer.

The state pays for nurses training for adult sexual assault victims but not for pediatric cases, Willis said. She said the designated NRMC nurses will be sent out-of-state for that training, which will be paid for by the hospital.

The ultimate goal, Willis and Smith said, is to help law enforcement convict sexual predators.

“This is really for the community, not for Natchez Regional,” Willis said. “These people are out there, and we want to be able to convict them.”

The equipment will cost approximately $13,000 to $15,000.

Anyone wishing to donate money for the equipment can mail a check made out to Natchez Regional Medical Center for the SANE program to 54 Seargent S. Prentiss Drive, Natchez, MS, 39120. The envelope should be addressed in care of Barbara Willis. Willis can be reached at 601-443-2632.