Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rural Distances and Access to Rape Crisis Funding

This class had a previous discussion on law enforcement and crime reporting comparing urban/rural areas.
To follow up on a previous comment, I wanted to introduce previous experience I had in fundraising/networking for a rape crisis network in North Carolina.

I was appointed as a “safety and security chair” for student government while attending UNC-CH. A student government representative most likely appointed me because I am a feminist. This was because nurses at UNC-CH were paying out their own pockets to provide rape victims/survivors who had just undergone rape kit tests with clothing, shelter, etc. Police generally took the clothing as evidence after the rape kit test. (Hence the reason nurses were paying out of pocket/out of charity).

It turns out that there are two ways in which rape victims/survivors can get funding for rape kit tests which in North Carolina costs somewhere between $500.00-$1,000.00. Additionally funding for preventative treatment for pregnancy and STIs are available. Funding comes through the State as well as the University (for students) in the Chapel Hill area. Paying for the actual processing of DNA samples is an area I am unfamiliar with and seems to have generated national controversy, controversy2, especially in 2002.

However, attending the coalition meetings that included, rape crisis activists, counselors, police, and nurses, it became very apparent that “word was not getting out to the rural areas.” Part of the reason being that the laws governing funding for rape kit tests and disease and pregnancy prevention funding was/is not institutionalized. When I say institutionalized, what I mean is that some rape crisis centers are run by non profits, some volunteers, some, as in Detroit, Michigan are run by the police department. This greatly affects the way administrators are able to come into knowledge regarding funding.

In the end, the University had plenty (in the 5 figure digits) of funding given the number of persons who use the funds each year. (Although the numbers we had were twice as high as those shown on the UNC-CH crime report, I was told by coalition members that this was due to a difference in number of people who seek care for rape v. the number of people who actually file a report, go on to through the prosecution process, etc.) .

My role ended up being very simple, to link the funding (that had been sitting in Student Activities Funds for years) to the patients/nurses. Perhaps this is an indication that this type of funding needs to be a part of routine administrative law enforcement and/or hospitalization-of- rape-victims process. And not the responsibility of a 19 year old.

Applying this to the rural, the bureaucracy in my experience seems to create greater barriers for centers trying to figure out how to access state funding. Some of these barriers relate to the greater distances nurses, police, etc. would have to travel in order to have these types of coalition meetings. Some solutions I have seen work in rural communities have been secured blogs and/or teleconferencing, for those communities with funds for the technology.

Maybe in the future there would be ways that law enforcement or health care responders (ambulances) could carry with them these kits or the emergency contraception that (under general health care practitioner advisement) is more effective the sooner it is administered. Having law enforcement and health care workers so equipped seems especially important in rural areas, where rape survivors may live considerable distances from typical health care resources.

(I do acknowledge some problems with this proposal: namely that victims will often go to hospitals prior to reporting to police, greater security/comfort that hospitals/nurses provide than law enforcement officials, etc.)

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