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Six Months In, Sexual Assault Clinic Sees More Survivors Coming Forward

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune
Safe Place's Eloise House says staff have completed at least 600 sexual assault examinations in six months, compared to the 450-examination average over the past few years.

Representatives at Austin’s Safe Place campus say they’re on track to conduct at least 600 sexual assault forensic exams this year. That's an increase from the past few years, when numbers averaged around 450 per year.

Safe Place credits its new clinic in East Austin as one reason for the increase.

Six months ago, Safe Place opened Eloise House, where sexual assault survivors can receive free forensic exams and get connected easily with other services, like counseling.

Safe Place covers the cost of exams as well as associated costs, like medications to prevent sexually transmitted infections. Emily Le Blanc with Safe Place says they were expecting to conduct one or two exams a day, but they’ve seen many more survivors.

“We knew we were losing victims who couldn’t wait at the ER because they would often see a long wait, or who were concerned about costs,” LeBlanc says. “There are bills associated with going to an emergency room, and sometimes that deterred victims.”

Le Blanc says more exams lead to more prosecutions. In May, Austin police ended its contract with Austin/Travis County Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, located at St. David’s. Now, they send survivors to Safe Place for exams.

Earlier this month, Safe Place also partnered with UT Austin to conduct exams, which can cost anywhere from $900 to $1,200, on campus for free. Sexual assault prevention advocates say students sometimes fail to report assaults because they don’t want to use their parents' health insurance to cover associated costs. 

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