Victims of sexual violence in the Nashville area no longer have to go to the hospital if they need the free forensics exam known as a rape kit. A new facility, called the SAFE Clinic, has opened, as part of the city’s Sexual Assault Center.
It doesn't provide emergency care, but the majority of rape victims don't need that. But they could benefit from therapy. Or — if they decide to report their assailant — advocacy and legal resources.
And that's what SAFE can offer, for the first time anywhere in the region: on-site experts help deal with the consequences of rape.
Rachel Freeman, who heads the Sexual Assault Center, says the goal of the facility's integrated, non-hospital approach was to "design a system that will provide accessible, expert reliable forensic exams to rape victims in Davidson County and Middle Tennessee as part of an immediate, coordinated comprehensive and compassionate response."
The clinic is staffed by the same nurse practitioners who work for the only place in Nashville that previously conducted the exams — General Hospital. The team will eventually be deployed to other hospitals as well, beginning with Skyline, possibly by the end of this year.
The idea is to one day eliminate any traveling for victims in the city, says Lt. Virginia Carrigan, who heads the Adult Sex Crimes Unit for Metro Police.
Carrigan says, "Imagine having to get back in another car and travel across the city while your mind is thinking, 'Do I really want to have this done? Do I have the courage to have this done?'" She thinks it's "wonderful for victims to have other options."
The SAFE Clinic cost $2.5 million, all of which came from private donors. It will start seeing patients later this month.