When a person reports a sexual assault at an emergency room, treatment of the victim includes more than just medical care. A victim advocacy group, the state attorney’s office and the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office teamed up to create what’s called “Code Teal” kits.
The Sexual Assault Response Team and the Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies in Charlotte County, or CARE, teamed up with state and local law enforcement to find a way to streamline the process a sexual assault victim undergoes at a hospital after being attacked.
The sexual assault program manger of CARE, Wendy S., asked that her last name be withheld because she is a sexual assault victim advocate. She said the idea came to fruition after emergency room personnel brought to light that they often found themselves scurrying about trying to gather all the necessary tools to conduct post-assault exams.
Wendy said the law requires the person who is conducting a sexual assault examination, stay in the room until the exam in completed.
She explained that if the medical professional were to leave at any point to get a specimen cup, gauze or saline, the integrity of the collected evidence would be jeopardized.
“What we decided to do was put the code teal kits together which is everything that a nurse or doctor would need to do a sexual assault examination,” Wendy said.
The kits are tote bags containing medical equipment, evidence bags, instructions on the chain of command for that evidence and information on services available for survivors.
Code Teal kits also include a 'Hospital Response Bag' that have donated personal hygiene items and a change of clothes, as often times clothing is kept as evidence in sexual assault cases.
“Our whole goal as all the agencies that respond to a sexual assault victim, that we were doing so in a way that was collaborative, compassionate and provided the most support to the victim without compromising the ability to collect evidence and be able to prosecute,” Wendy said.
In 2017, 48 forcible sex offenses were reported to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office but Wendy said her organization helped more than double that number of sexual assault survivors in the same year.
Code Teal kits were given to Charlotte County hospitals and several in neighboring Sarasota county.
"We will continue to provide them for as long as sexual assaults continue to happen," Wendy said.