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Banner University opens forensic exam site for sexual assault survivors

Banner University Medical Center
Posted at 6:46 AM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 09:46:49-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Banner University Medical Center recently made an important addition to their emergency department. Medical professionals now have the tools to offer a forensic exam to survivors of sexual assault.

"One of the things that we really pride ourselves with, for many aspects of Banner, is our location and proximity to the University of Arizona. With school starting back in August, we want to make sure that we're available should a survivor present from campus that would need the services," said Banner University Emergency Department Medical Director, Dr. Melissa Zukowski.

Up until this August, local survivors could only receive a forensic exam at Tucson Medical Center. For many years Banner wanted to provide this kind of care. A $499,382 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice finally made it possible.

"We need to be available for our student survivors. If we look nationally, the age range 18 to 34 is at the highest rate of victimization," said Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (SACASA) Director, Katlyn Monje.

Trained advocates and nurses from the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (SACASA) will use a space inside Banner to provide support and respond to the needs of survivors. This even includes offering basic items like fresh clothes and a cell phone.

"They can get a forensic exam and choose to have it kept in storage under the Violence Against Women Act. They will not be forced to testify or file a report with law enforcement. If they choose to do so later, the right and the option is there for them," said Monje.

The University of Arizona was one of eight universities to be awarded the grant to expand services related to sexual assault.

"For some of our students who may not have access to a car or something to drive five miles away to TMC, it's now right here and close to campus," said Cynthia Chapman with the University of Arizona Consortium on Gender Based Violence.

"This is a program we wish someone never needed. This is the worse time of anyone's life when they present here. We want to make sure we can serve them from start to finish and get them whatever they need to empower themselves to move forward," said Zukowski.

If you, or someone you know, needs support following a sexual assault, call (520) 327-7273 to reach the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault's 24/7 crisis line.