Three crisis centers for victims of rape and sexual assault will be opened in Istanbul

They will assist the small percentage of people who actually report a sexual assault and to encourage other victims to come forward.

The centers, founded by Yeni Yüzyýl University, will also offer expert legal advice and collect accurate physical evidence of the alleged crimes without re-traumatizing victims.

Established within the scope of the Universal Hospital Group, the facilities are ready to begin offering services pending the granting of the necessary permission by the country’s Higher Education Board, or YÖK, according to Professor Ersi Abacý Kalfoðlu.

“It is not easy at all for victims to speak about their victimhood,” Kalfoðlu, a DNA expert and the first professor of forensic genetics in Turkey, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. She said victims’ feelings of shame and the social pressure they face contribute to this difficulty.

According to Kalfoðlu, on average, only 10 percent of sexual assaults around the world are reported, so she can only guess at the number of actual incidents in Turkey, which she said she expected to be very high.

Currently, a rape victim applies to either the police or a state hospital, but there are no dedicated centers where she or he may be transferred after giving testimony. Police generally prefer to send victims to state hospitals because the process at forensic medicine units takes too much time, the professor said.

“But the doctors [at state hospitals] cannot view the matter from the angle of forensic medicine,” Kalfoðlu said. “A gynecologist would know how to attend to childbirth, but he would not know how to collect evidence from a rape victim.”

Though gynecologists know how to examine for virginity and whether or not there is physical damage, they are neither trained nor equipped to collect evidence from the victim’s body and clothes, the professor added.

Three centers in Istanbul may not sound like a sufficient solution to the problem, but the project’s founders hope to expand the effort in the future. Virginia A. Lynch, who first coined the term “forensic nursing,” will teach a program to train nurses in the field at the health faculty of Yeni Yüzyýl University.

“If we can spread these nurses around [to various] hospitals, they would be the qualified personnel alongside doctors to help in collecting evidence,” Lynch said. “Training nurses is more practical than retraining doctors.” A laboratory to examine the evidence at every health facility is not required as long as it is collected properly, she said.

Though the crisis centers aim to better the odds of apprehending rapists, their mission does not end there, Kalfoðlu said. “The victim must be rehabilitated; rape incidents cause serious traumas that should be looked into,” the professor said, adding that such a process is currently nonexistent in Turkey.

Trained doctors, nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists will handle the patients at the rape crisis centers, while the university has already founded a Sexual Crime Prevention Research Center that will organize actions and seminars to raise awareness and offer training on the issue. Printed material to help inform doctors and lab personnel will also be provided.

The Alman Hastanesi in Istanbul’s Taksim Square area, Vatan Hospital in the Aksaray district and Kadýköy Hospital in Kadýköy will be the first facilities in the city to host the rape crisis centers. The Alman Hastanesi will be the main center and will contain the laboratory.

Talks are ongoing with the government and the police department to establish constructive cooperation, Kalfoðlu said, noting that the Vatan and Kadýköy hospitals work within the scope of the Social Security Authority, or SSK, while the Alman Hastanesi does not.

“We will try our best to help everybody from different economic statuses,” Kalfoðlu said, adding that the SSK currently does not cover expenses incurred in this area, something that the university will lobby to change.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=rape-crisis-centers-for-istanbul-are-on-the-way-2010-05-04



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