Nurses call for sex assault report to be implemented

THE Irish Nurses’ Organisation (INO) has called on Tánaiste and Health Minister Mary Harney to implement recommendations to overhaul the treatment of victims of sexual assault.

The recommendations were drafted last October by a committee made up of stakeholders including the Department of Health and the Department of Justice, as well as the INO, gardaí and Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI).

The document recommended initiatives under seven headings, making provision for the forensic training of nurses to treat sex assault victims and for dedicated waiting rooms in garda stations.

The report, backed by all the stakeholders, was received by Ms Harney in November.

The Department of Health had been instrumental in setting up the sub-committee from the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women, which drafted the document, entitled Sexual Assault Treatment Services A National Review.

INO director of professional development Annette Kennedy said the report, if implemented, would make a huge difference to sex assault victims.

"We have not got a comprehensive service at the moment. A lot of services depend on voluntary contributions and that is not appropriate," she said.

"We plan on requesting a meeting with the Tánaiste in the very near future."

The report, yet to be published, states that the development of sexual assault treatment unit (SATU) services should be the joint responsibility of the Departments of Health and Justice.

In addition to standardising existing services, the recommendations include expanding SATU services, including services for Galway and the Midlands.

A Health Department spokesperson said Ms Harney recognised the importance of effective services for victims of sexual violence.

The report is one of two sets of guidelines under consideration, the other being Rape/Sexual Assault: National Guidelines on Referral and Forensic Examination in Ireland.

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