Gaps in services for sexual assault victims in Texas revealed

Aug 29, 2011

A new University of Texas at Austin statewide study reveals significant gaps in services for sexual assault victims and calls for improvements, including additional funding.

Increasing the availability of local services and lessening wait times will lead to stronger cases for , the researchers said.

The study, funded by the Criminal Justice Division of the Office of the Governor, is the first statewide needs evaluation for adult of sexual assault in Texas, according to Dr. Noël Busch-Armendariz, associate professor in the School of Social Work and lead investigator.

Researchers interviewed victims, rape crisis center advocates, nurses, law enforcement officers, victim services professionals and prosecutors across Texas. They found there is a substantial need for more funding, including additional support for those who serve victims.

"Sexual assault crimes persist as a social problem in Texas and the need to propel this issue to the public's attention is pressing," said Busch-Armendariz. "Little is known about the factors that promote or hinder victims to seek services from law enforcement and or victim service organizations. And, less is known about how these gaps in services impact a victim’s experience for a return to full physical, mental and emotional health.

It is critical to develop strategies so that victims can come forward."

When they did come forward, Busch-Armendariz said many victims of sexual assault told researchers that they left emergency departments when they discovered that the for the forensic exam was several hours.

The researchers recommend more funding for sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), who generally work through hospital emergency departments and are specifically trained to provide medical attention and evidence collection in a victim-centered manner.

The study estimates that Texas spends $42.8 million annually in costs to law enforcement, rape crisis centers, SANE nurse programs, district attorneys and crime victim compensation.

"We believe that the estimates obtained are the most reliable we have in Texas to date, although they are surely an underestimate," said Busch-Armendariz.

To achieve better service, the researchers suggest:

• Make adequate and stable funding available to all the organizations whose missions are to provide direct services to sexual assault survivors and work on efforts to prevent sexual violence.
• Strategize innovative ways to enhanced collaboration and communication among organizations that assist sexual assault victims.
• Recruit and retain the most seasoned professionals in the field.
• Extend accessible and competent services to all victims of this crime.
• Initiate courageous victim-centered approaches to all stages of the process.
• Develop revolutionary educational campaigns to broaden the understanding of this crime and decrease its stigma.

The study was conducted through the university's Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA) where Busch-Armendariz is director. Dr. Shetal Vohra-Gupta, IDVSA post doctoral fellow, was project director.

The research follows Busch-Armendariz's 2003 study, which found that 1.9 million adult Texans (20 percent of women and five percent of men) have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. The 2003 study was the first accurate look at sexual assault rates in Texas, and revealed a much larger problem than previously indicated by crime reports.

"We hope the new study serves as a catalyst and direction for future efforts in addressing sexual assault in Texas," said Busch-Armendariz.

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

More than 20 percent of sexual assaults drug-facilitated

Mar 02, 2009

More than 20% of sexual assaults in a sample of 882 victims were drug-facilitated sexual assaults, found a new study published in CMAJ. Victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault were more likely than others to present to a l ...

Research to target untested rape kits

May 05, 2011

Researchers at Sam Houston State University and the University of Texas at Austin will team up with representatives from the criminal justice system in Houston to establish protocols to determine when sexual assault kits ...

Gangs don't protect against crime

Apr 13, 2011

Gang members are twice as likely to be crime victims than non-gang members and are more frequently subject to simple assault, aggravated assault and drive by shootings, according to a recently study by the Crime Victims' ...

Crime Victims' Institute studies adolescent sex and laws

May 24, 2011

While statutory rape laws have been enacted to protect minors from sexual abuse by adults or peers, more teenagers are engaging in sexual activity before the legal age of consent and are facing sexual assault charges.

Little safe haven for sexually assaulted LGBTQ victims

Aug 13, 2009

Being a victim of sexual assault and seeking help is difficult for anyone, but when the victim is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) the thought of reporting a crime may well be laced ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...