Senators ask for GAO report on access to sexual assault examiners

Senators demanded Thursday that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review U.S. access to emergency medial personnel that have sexual assault training.

Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) sent a letter to GAO Comptroller Gene Dodaro asking him to investigate the situation to ensure sexual assault victims have access to a forensic exams, increasing the likelihood that the perpetrator will be held accountable.

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“There is a nation-wide shortage of medical personnel trained in conducting sexual assault forensic examinations for the purpose of collecting evidence and providing appropriate counseling," the senators wrote.

Their letter was sparked by a recent GAO report that found healthcare varies for service members who have been sexually assaulted depending on which branch of military they serve in and where they’re stationed. The senators said GAO should look into the shortages of medical staff trained in sexual assault forensic examinations not just in the military but also around the country.

“It has been suggested that the ability of an emergency room to collect and preserve medical forensic evidence in cases of sexual assault and domestic violence varies significantly from hospital to hospital and may be especially limited at health care facilities in rural areas and communities most at risk of sexual assault and domestic violence,” the letter stated. “This deficiency must be remedied; justice for victims of sexual assault should not be impeded due to a lack of access to properly trained medical personnel.”

Lawmakers have grown increasingly concerned about sexual assault on college campuses and in the military as the number of incidences rise. The 2014 reauthorization of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included some protections for victims in the military.

“We are proud to work with our Senate colleagues to develop solutions to the scourge of sexual assaults in the armed forces, but we know that challenges to pursuing and achieving justice for victims of sexual assault in the U.S. also exist outside the military,” the senators wrote.