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Supervisors push greater awareness of “SAFE” services for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence

SAN JOSE – Santa Clara County Supervisors Joe Simitian and Cindy Chavez are pushing the County to raise awareness about Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) Program, locations, and services, including information about what the program is, how to access it, and what survivors can expect from the experience.

"These are critical County services for folks facing an extraordinarily painful time in their lives,” said Simitian, Chair of the County’s Health and Hospital Committee. "It’s important we make sure the community knows what resources are available, and where to get them if they or their loved ones ever need to use them.”

The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Adult/Adolescent SAFE Program cares for survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence and domestic violence, age 12 and older, who seek medical treatment and/or evidence collection after assault. Services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at several locations across the region:

• Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose
• St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy
• Stanford Health Center in Palo Alto
• Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz
• Children’s Advocacy Center in San Jose

“Since 2018 when Santa Clara became the first county in the state to commit to processing all sexual assault kits within 30 days, we have been a model for bringing perpetrators of sexual assault to justice while treating survivors with dignity and compassion. The trained examiners of the SAFE program play a key role in both of these goals. I want to make sure everyone in our community knows that they are available 24 hours a day at locations throughout the county,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

SAFE exams are performed by specially trained sexual assault nurse examiners and are timely, non-judgmental, and compassionate. The number of SAFE exams performed by the program has grown steadily over the past few years, and the need for services continues to grow. As of the end of May 2023, a total of 396 exams have been performed this year alone, representing an 18% increase over the same period in 2022. Enhanced SAFE outreach ensures that information about the program reaches those who need, know someone else who needs or might one day need these services.

With the Board of Supervisors’ approval of the recommendation at its August 15 Board Meeting, County staff will engage with stakeholders across the County, including survivors where possible and appropriate, to develop an outreach plan which could include the development of a user-friendly website, information kits that can be distributed at local high schools, colleges, universities, community clinics, health systems, and community-based organizations, and training at these locations and others.

“The SAFE Program provides patient-centered medical and forensic services for survivors of gender-based violence to help reduce trauma and promote healing,” said Kim Walker, Nurse Manager of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s SAFE Program. “By increasing public awareness about SAFE services and how to access them through this initiative, more survivors, family members, and providers will be able to immediately connect to our specially trained nurses, who can offer survivors the confidential trauma-informed care they are entitled to.”

According to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s SAFE Program, if someone is assaulted:

• Get to a location out of danger.
• Contact a trusted support person for help. This may be a sexual assault or domestic violence advocacy agency.
• Seek healthcare at a SAFE Response Location. When you arrive ask for a SAFE nurse.
• SAFE exams for sexual assault may be provided up to 10 days after sexual assault.
• SAFE exams for domestic violence or intimate partner violence may be provided up to 14 days after assault.
• Seek counseling and support.

For immediate assistance, call (408) 793 – SAFE (7233).