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Sexual assault has become an increasingly visible issue on campus — in the past few weeks alone, three separate instances have been reported. In comparison, according to the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report released by the Division of Public Safety, just eight sexual assaults were reported on campus in all of 2008. The procedure for caring for victims of sexual violence is familiar — the victim goes to a hospital, where she is treated accordingly. But it might surprise you to find out that the people who went through this experience were unable to receive treatment at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Hospitals that have the medical expertise, personnel and materials to treat those who have experienced sexual assault are classified as “rape-designated hospitals.” Currently, HUP does not carry this designation. The Penn Consortium for Undergraduate Women, or PCUW, believes that HUP should take the necessary steps to become such an institution. As of right now, there are only two such hospitals in Philadelphia: Episcopal Hospital at Temple University (6.7 miles away) and Thomas Jefferson Hospital (1.8 miles away).

When asked why she thought it was important that HUP become a rape-designated hospital, PCUW chairwoman Rosa Cui said, “We feel that two centers are not enough to serve the entire Philadelphia population, especially since there is a shortage of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), the specially trained nurses who perform the examination after assault.” She went on to say, “Establishing a center at HUP would provide a local facility for the universities, including Penn, Drexel and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, as well as the larger West Philadelphia community.”

I completely agree with Cui’s assessment of the situation. There is absolutely no reason why HUP, one of the best medical institutions in the nation, should not be classified as a rape-designated hospital.

Victims of sexual assault are already coping with a considerable amount of psychological trauma. They should not have to be shuffled between hospitals because HUP cannot care for them.

Cui painted a picture of what happens to a person after they report a sexual assault. “In the event of sexual assault, the individual is picked up by the police or an ambulance and is stabilized at the closest emergency room, which would be HUP in this case. However, because HUP does not have the necessary equipment for a physical and forensic exam, the individual is escorted to the closest certified rape crisis center.”

The change of location can add to a survivor’s sense of fear and frustration. Additionally, “because of the limited number of SANE nurses, the wait times can be extremely long and worsen the trauma of rape survivors,” explained Cui.

Transforming HUP into a rape-designated hospital would significantly ameliorate the above scenario. Instead of being treated at multiple locations, sexual assault survivors would be able to stay at HUP. Additionally, turning HUP into a rape-designated hospital means that HUP would bring more SANE nurses to the area, and this would invariably decrease the wait time for examination at all three locations.

The only argument that I can think of that could be used against this initiative is cost. There are those out there that will say that the benefits HUP would receive would not justify the costs incurred to make HUP a rape-designated hospital.

As of now, it is unclear exactly what the added cost of ensuring that HUP could care for sexual assault victims would be. But I’m sure that, whatever it is, it would be insignificant when compared to the multi-billion dollar operating budget that exists behind the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn owes it to the community to ensure that HUP is able to care for survivors of sexual assault. Not only would this serve our campus well, but it would also help the greater West Philadelphia community. Contact Cui at to sign a petition to tell Penn and HUP officials that you feel the hospital should become a rape-designated center.

Dennie Zastrow is a College senior from Wilson, N.Y. He is the chairman of the Lambda Alliance. His e-mail address is

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