Texas A&M Plans Nursing Program to Help Sexual Assault Victims

May 20, 2014

Only 35 percent of injured sexual assault victims in the U.S. receive medical care, according to a new study that suggests not enough nurses are trained to help victims and conduct forensic exams.

But there’s an effort to change that.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center is working on a forensic nursing program that would boost the number of the state’s nurses trained to help rape victims seek care and justice.

Trisha Sheridan is a professor at the school’s College of Nursing. She says she’s the only certified forensic nurse in the Bryan-College Station area.

"We know that sexual assaults occur with a 60 percent unreported rate and the latest statistic is one every two hours in Texas," Sheridan says. "And so we definitely have a need in Brazos Valley and all over Texas."

The annual cost of sexual violence in Texas is more than $27 million.

The university hopes to have the program in place within the next year or two.

Sen. John Cornyn has been calling on Congress to renew a federal program that grants money to law enforcement agencies that test the backlog of rape examination kits.

The legislation is known as the Justice for All Reauthorization Act.

"In recent years, the backlog of untested rape kits has grown to unconscionable proportions,"  Sen. Cornyn wrote in a Houston Chronicle op-ed on April 24, 2014. "Estimates of the nationwide backlog are in the hundreds of thousands, with Texas at one time accounting for roughly 20,000 of them. Each kit that collects dust in a laboratory or on an evidence-locker shelf represents denied justice and the threat of repeat assaults."

Provisions of the law will expire in September if Congress doesn't reauthorize them.