New clinic for sexual assault victims in South Bay to open at Stanford Hospital and Clinics in 2019

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A new partnership between Santa Clara County and Stanford University will put a sexual assault forensic exam clinic in the northern part of the county, locally known as North County.

The planned clinic will improve accessibility to the growing number of people reporting their attacks in the South Bay.

Advocates tell ABC7 News, more victims throughout Santa Clara County are reporting the crimes. It isn't clear whether more people are committing these crimes, or if people are feeling more empowered to come forward.

In any case, County Supervisor Joe Simitian says the growing need for sexual assault exams means there is great urgency to put new clinics in areas where resources are lacking.

Forensic exams are meant to be performed within 72-hours of a sexual assault. The specific timing allows for DNA and other physical evidence to be collected.

According to Supervisor Simitian, sexual assault forensic exams are currently only performed at Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

For those outside of San Jose, that means a trek away from home after having experienced trauma.

"One of the things we've been pushing for is to see if we can't make that process a little less traumatic," Supervisor Simitian said. "Hopefully, by providing those services in a more familiar environment, and closer to home."

The partnership between the county and university started to take shape once Supervisor Simitian wrote to Stanford University president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

The supervisor explained his concern about a proposal to open a pilot clinic at the university's Vaden Health Center. The pilot clinic would be open on weekends, and only available to people who were assaulted under the Stanford Department of Public Safety's jurisdiction.

Supervisor Simitian shared his letter to Tessier-Lavigne, with ABC7 News. Simitian also shared the university president's response.

Tessier-Lavigne acknowledged the need to "reduce the burden on already traumatized victims who, today, have to travel a long distance to the southern part of the County for their examination."

He wrote, "I am able to commit that Stanford Medicine will indeed be able to service the entire population of northern Santa Clara County, pending finalization of an updated agreement, and as soon as the County is able to provide the tained personnel."

Tessier-Lavigne wrote that Stanford has determined that a space can be provided at the existing Stanford Hospital and Clinics.

Supervisor Simitian told ABC7 News, "Now it falls on the county to make sure we have the right staff in place to provide these exams when they're necessary."

The clinic would serve cities like Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, and others. The new clinic at Stanford is expected to be completed by 2019.

YWCA Silicon Valley CEO, Tanis Crosby, told ABC7 News the planned clinic is coming at a crucial time.

"More and more survivors are reaching out, and they're not just saying, 'Me too,'" Crosby said. "They're saying, 'I need your help.'"

Crosby says it's projected there will be 400 sexual assault medical exams needed county-wide, in the coming year.

Crosby told ABC7 News, "I think there's a real opportunity here to be curious about, can we expand the number of locations?"

She explained, the YWCA is the oldest and largest multicultural women's organization in the world. As a local association of the national and world YWCA's, the YWCA of Silicon Valley shares in the long history of advocacy for women and girls.

For immediate in-person crisis assistance and counseling services, victims of sexual violence can contact YWCA's 24-hour support line at 800-572-2782.

Crosby and Simitian agree the new clinic is a step in the right direction, but also that more needs to be done to address the needs of the growing number of sexual assault victims in the South Bay.
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