Senate bill 1191 was passed by the legislature this year it requiring all hospitals in the state with emergency rooms to have staff trained in the collection of forensic evidence in rape and sexual assault cases.
This law gives victims of rape and sexual assault a choice in where they want to be examined.
Northwest Texas Hospital is the designated facility for sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) for the entire panhandle.
Until this law, all victims in the Texas Panhandle had to be transferred to Northwest. Now, they have a choice of being treated and having evidence collected at their hometown hospital or they can still be transferred to Northwest.
Becky O'Neal, the SANE coordinator for Northwest says the law is a good start but, it doesn't go far enough. She says there's much more to dealing with victims than just collecting evidence. "My concern would be that the expertise to be there to see the patient, obtain the forensic medical history from the patient, collect forensic evidnece if it's needed, take photographs for documentation of any type of injuries." O'Neal said.
O'Neal adds, there's another problem with the law. She and her staff have the experience in handling a lot of cases. SANE nurses in the smaller hospitals won't have the same experience.
All evidence collected will still have to be processed through the DPS crime lab which has a backlog of rape kits estimated between 15,000 and 20,000.