Michiana sexual assault care remains a focus during pandemic

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Hospitals and advocates face the challenge of keeping resources available in full capacity to sexual assault victims during the pandemic.

Methods of support like in-person counseling and advocate escorting in a hospital are put on hold during safety measures enacted from the coronavirus outbreak, Lakeland Hospital Forensic Nurse Examiner Deb McEldowney.

“Just to reduce the number of people close in contact, we are not having our volunteers come in with us,” McEldowney said.
“So that’s really been the only challenge that we’ve had.”

However, services over the phone and at other centers like Cora Lamping in Benton Harbor and the Family Justice Center in St. Joseph County remain available 24/7.

Family Justice Center Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator Amelia Thomas said a constant platform like hotlines and websites is a crucial tool for getting victims to safety.

“We talk daily with our on-site partners about cases,” Thomas said.
“Our information is all free and confidential at the Family Justice Center too, so we do have to get releases to have the information shared, but if that’s something that the client feels safe doing then we can help them through the additional process.”

Both groups emphasized that even during a pandemic, victims can get connected to hospital resources without coming in contact with the virus thanks to seating arrangements and personal protective equipment provided by area clinics and ERs.

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