Santa Clara County

Stanford Making a Push to Have Rape Kits at Medical Facilities

Stanford University is trying to make it easier for sexual assault victims in Palo Alto to get a medical exam called a rape kit that could help catch and prosecute their attackers.

Currently, such victims are traveling to Valley Medical Center in San Jose to get the exams, and some believe it's simply too far to ask victims to travel.

Stanford Ph.D. student and advocate Emma Tsurkov, said she believes one medical center isn’t enough for the many victims out there. She says a facility closer to Stanford would encourage more victims in the immediate area to come forward.

Being a victim of sexual assault is traumatizing, and reporting it can be daunting enough without having to travel such a far distance to do so, Tsurkov said.

"Many people on campus don’t have cars, and then the idea of are you going to go to a rape kit in an Uber?" she said.

Stanford is working with Santa Clara County to make rape kits more accessible at university facilities.

Tsurkov, a member of two committees working to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, says most sexual assault victims she knows never report the crime in part because getting the rape kit isn’t easy.

"They don’t want public health involved, they don’t want to inform anybody at the university," she said.

She applauds Stanford’s recent efforts but hopes the access to rape kits remains a priority.

"The need exists but exists broader than just the student community," she said.

Valley Medical Center has a sexual assault response team, meaning there are nurses and staff with special training for the rape kit, and they can collect evidence to prosecute the crime.

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