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Rape kit exams is the first step toward finding perpetrator, healing

8:20 PM, Nov 7, 2011   |    comments
Rape survivor Peggy Rex
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SACRAMENTO, CA - Nearly 35 years ago, Peggy Rex was raped.

Rex was 15 years old when she was assaulted. The suspect broke into her home.

"It happened in a place that was supposed to be safe - a locked house," Rex said. "So therefore my sense of safety in many areas was completely, compromised. It's hard to find safety when that was where I should have been safe."

Rex was taken to the emergency room by sheriff's deputies because her parents were out of town at the time. There, Rex went through a sexual assault evidentiary exam.

Also known as a rape kit, the exam includes an in-depth interview with the rape victim, which describes the attack with as much detail as possible, and DNA collected from the victim's body. Examiners also take pictures of the victim's body and clothes that were worn during the attack.

"The importance of getting [the exam] is ... that is the evidence that the crime occurred; and without that there's no concrete documentation," Rex said.

According to WEAVE Executive Director Beth Hassett, 1 in 10 women will report a rape. Hassett said many women fear that people won't believe them or they know the suspect. In 75 percent of rapes, the victim knows the suspect.

Rex said many women do not report rapes and do not go into get the rape kit exam because they feel like it's their fault.

"I think it is [a big mistake not to get the exam] only in the sense that there is more than just evidence being gathered," Rex said. "Going in and getting the exam, you're having a physical exam if there is trauma happening during the event. There is also the opportunity, with WEAVE providing an advocate to every victim being taken into an emergency room, to learn of resources. I think the important thing is, by going in there and being greeted with an advocate you learn about opportunities, opportunities to heal, and opportunities to move forward and beyond the trauma that happened."

About a year and a half ago, Rex completed her training to be a WEAVE advocate. When sexual assault victims go to the hospital, Rex will be use her training and her experience to help them through the traumatic experience.

"The exam is really important to first of all, I think, to acknowledge to yourself that this was a crime and it was worth reporting and to gather the evidence," Rex said.


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