- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2007

RICHMOND (AP) — A panel appointed by the governor to address problems surrounding sexual violence in Virginia laid out more than two dozen draft recommendations yesterday in the hopes of improving treatment for sexual-assault victims and preventing such crimes from happening.

The Governor’s Commission on Sexual Violence still must finalize its 27 recommendations before presenting them to Gov. Tim Kaine, who appointed commission members last November. The panel includes sexual-assault survivors, law-enforcement officials, legislators, advocates and clergy.

“It goes without saying how terribly critical and serious an issue this is,” Mr. Kaine told the commission. “The physical and emotional trauma that are visited upon victims of crimes of sexual violence are beyond compare.”

The panel hopes to present its finalized report to Mr. Kaine by the end of next month, said Secretary of Public Safety John Marshall, the commission’s co-chairman.

Mr. Kaine said he plans to divide the recommendations into those that can be implemented immediately, those that depend on legislative or budgetary changes and those that are targeted for such specific groups as law-enforcement agencies.

Some of the draft proposals are expected to cost nothing, while others range from an estimated $150,000 to $3.9 million. Among the costlier items is a recommendation that the state increase funding for sexual assault crisis centers by $2.3 million.

Mr. Kaine acknowledged that the current budget is tight but said he still takes the commission’s recommendations seriously.

“When revenues are short, it’s even more important to be really rigorous about prioritization,” Mr. Kaine said. “And this is important stuff.”

Other proposals include a comprehensive review of Virginia’s sex-crime statutes and ensuring that victims of sexual violence have easy access to competent forensic examiners.

Susan Carson, a forensic nurse at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, told the panel that victims of sex crimes — especially in rural areas — often must travel long distances to find a medical center with forensic nurses available to treat them. In the past three years, the state has lost eight forensic nurse teams in rural areas of Virginia because of funding problems, she said.

Victims that can’t travel long distances for the specialized care a forensic nurse provides often must settle for treatment by health care professionals who are unqualified and sometimes uncaring.

“They deserve the highest quality of services,” Miss Carson said of sexual-assault victims.

The commission also wants the Virginia Department of Health to develop a public-education program on sexual-violence prevention and is recommending that the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia establish a position to promote sexual-violence prevention on campuses.

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