Following two recent sexual assaults on campus, the Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women Steering Committee is urging students and University officials to take action to help rape victims.
PCUW released a petition Tuesday requesting the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania become a rape-designated hospital, a legal distinction that allows hospitals to treat victims of sexual assault by ensuring they follow certain medical and legal procedures.
Currently, only two hospitals in Philadelphia — Jefferson Hospital, located at 111 S. 11th St., and Episcopal Hospital at Temple University, located at 100 E. Lehigh Ave. — are rape-designated. Both of these hospitals, the petition points out, are east of the Schuylkill River.
Such an arrangement might be “very inconvenient” for rape victims seeking help, said Jessica Mertz, violence prevention educator at the Penn Women’s Center.
Mertz added that the inconvenience might even deter some rape victims from seeking medical attention in the first place.
College senior and PCUW chairwoman Rosa Cui, who co-authored the petition, said having HUP as a rape-designated hospital would confer benefits on not just Penn but the wider West Philadelphia community as well.
“It’s a larger issue than just Penn,” she said.
Though the idea has been circulating for several years, Mertz said she thought the it had been derailed in the past because of state government funding issues.
Cui said the cost of the program includes not only the materials needed for a forensic rape examination but the training that specialized sexual assault nurses receive.
She also noted that on Friday, PCUW members are meeting with the Division of Public Safety to identify where the project has run into trouble in the past.
Even if the petition runs into similar issues this time, she said, it carries important “symbolic” weight since it demonstrates students’ dedication to the cause.
She added that she hopes the petition’s momentum will spill over into the city and state government.
Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush called the petition an expression of the student body’s “heightened awareness” of sexual assault, following the two incidents last month and an ensuing “sexual violence speakout” hosted by the Penn’s all-male sexual-assault awareness group One-in-Four.
Currently, Rush said, rape victims that come to HUP are taken to Jefferson Hospital. She added that though victims are not treated at HUP, they are “never alone,” since a member of Divison of Public Saftey’s Special Services Department would accompany them at all times.
HUP officials did not return requests for comment.
Cui said anyone who wishes to sign the petition can do so online at petitiononline.com/pcuw2009.Comments powered by Disqus
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