Woman frustrated with lack of sexual assault kits in Santa Cruz County

Woman frustrated with lack of

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Santa Cruz County officials tell KION that there are not enough qualified nurses there to administer Sexual Assault Response Team, or SART, exams so they contract them out to Santa Clara County–something that Sara Arellano from Capitola and others are frustrated about.

Arellano recently underwent a SART exam. after she says she was drugged at The Redroom bar in Santa Cruz and later sexually assaulted. Arellano told KION this all happened Saturday night when she went out with a friend and got drinks. But after a second round of drinks, she doesn't remember much of what happened. 

"It was just…it was traumatizing. I can't imagine someone having to go through that and remember their assault," Arellano said as she recounted the day she went through the exam.

"I didn't know what that entailed. I thought it was like they swab you and the you're done. No, they have to photograph your entire body naked and they have to measure your injuries and photograph them," Arellano said. "They have to photograph like between your legs and stuff and nobody talks about that."

Date rape drugs were found in her system after a blood test at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, but then she was told they didn't offer the tests there and had to drive more than 30 miles to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

"And that's the most messed up part of this all, in my opinion is, having to drive to Santa Clara, having to go that far. What if that was a teenager. How would they have gotten there," Arellano said.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriffs Office, which coordinates the county's sexual assault response efforts, said Valley Medical in San Jose has the best available resources, including staffing and facilities for administering the SART exams.

Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Dee Baldwin told KION, "the value of the evidence gained justifies the necessity to travel. They are experts in the field."

Monarch Services, who offers sexual assault services and accompanies survivors to SART exams, said the distance is challenging.

"It's really challenging because after somebody has been through such a traumatic event, they then have to go all the way over to Valley Medical Center and not just spend the time traveling over there, but also spending the time at the actual exam," said Monarch Services Program Manager Leeann Luna.

Contracting out these cases has been going on for the past two years. 

The Santa Cruz County spokesperson Jason Hoppin said they hope to bring the tests back to the area, but the soonest that would happen would be early next year.

Monarch hopes the exams will return to Santa Cruz soon.

They have a 24-hour bilingual crisis line for anyone seeking assistance related to sexual assault, sexual abuse domestic violence, and human trafficking at 1-888-900-4232.

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