By Cooper Overstreet, DA Candidate Douglas County
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In the United States 1 in 4 women have reported being a victim of sexual violence. Every day in the US, approximately 10,000 individuals call in to domestic abuse hotlines. These numbers are devastating. We cannot have a criminal justice system that truly promotes equal justice for all, if the voices of thousands of survivors every year are not being heard.
For the first in our weekly look into the criminal justice system, I had the privilege to sit down with Dr. Jennifer Johnson for a discussion about the role of prosecutors and law enforcement in investigating sexual assault cases, and how are prosecutors can be better equipped to ensure all sexual assault cases are investigated fully and competently. You can watch the full interview below:
Dr. Johnson is a world-renowned expert and current FACT (Forensic Assessment Consultation and Treatment) program coordinator at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. In her role, Dr. Johnson administers the FACT program and supervises other forensic nurses investigating allegations of violent crimes, including sexual assaults.
A forensic nurse is a nurse with specialized training in criminal procedures, the legal system, forensic evidence collection, providing medical testimony in court, and providing consultation to law enforcement. Forensic Nurses/Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are registered nurses or nurse practitioners who have a specialized education and clinical preparation in forensic examination of sexual assault or abuse victims. Forensic nurses play a crucial role in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases.
In Kansas, medical forensic examinations are available for medical treatment of injuries, treatment of sexually transmitted infections and a medical forensic examination to collect evidence may be completed. The best website to visit to locate a facility that provides a medical forensic examination by a Forensic Nurse is https://www.kcsdv.org/ on the website there is a map that shows the programs that can provide this type of evaluation. If more comfortable, one can also call any of the hotlines and they will be able to provide that information as well.
In our conversation, Dr. Johnson discussed the important role that forensic nurses play in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases. Furthermore, Dr. Johnson highlighted the importance of communication and responsiveness between all members of the “Multi-Disciplinary Team”, often times comprised of prosecutors, social workers, medical professionals and law enforcement. These groups must work together to ensure sexual assault cases are fully investigated, ensuring survivors stories can be told.
As Douglas County DA, I will create a system that supports survivors by ensuring all members of the prosecution team are adequately trained in sexual assault investigations. From day one, my office will enact strict guidelines pertaining to the investigation, training, and prosecution of allegations of sexual assaults. No case should ever be dismissed, nor any survivor ever feel afraid to tell their story because of a lack of faith in our system. We can and must do better.
To learn more about the groups and resources available in Douglas County and around the region, I encourage you to visit the following websites:
- The Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center in Douglas County 785-843-8985 http://stacarecenter.org/
- Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault in Greater Kansas City (MOCSA) 913-642-0233 https://www.mocsa.org/
- The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, Kansas (KCSDV) 888-363-2287 https://www.kcsdv.org/
- End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) //www.evawintl.org/