WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita forensic nurses said they have seen a 50% drop in the number of sexual assault and domestic violence survivors seeking help and think COVID-19 could be to blame.
“We haven’t seen as many medical calls or the need for medical advocacy,” said Amanda Meyers, executive director of the Wichita Family Crisis Center.
It’s a concern for advocates and health officials in Wichita. While Wichita Police said they have seen a four percent increase in reported rapes in the last two weeks compared to this time last year, advocates and nurses said not all of those people are going to the hospital for help.
“Typically, when someone is a survivor of domestic violence and goes to the emergency room, the forensic nurses will actually call us to make sure that person has a safe place to go,” said Meyers.
But in the last two weeks, forensic nurses at Ascension Via Christi said they have not been making as may of those calls, a scary realization of the continued effects of COVID-19.
“We’re thinking it’s probably due to patients being a little hesitant coming into the hospital where people could possibly have COVID and being exposed,” said Cathy Marlier, forensic nurse at Ascension Via Christi.
Hospital officials want people to know that they will be safe when coming to the hospital.
Marlier said every visitor, patient and employee is screened. Employees must be screened before every shift.
Meyers said she has spoken with some survivors who have expressed their fear of going to the hospital.
“They’re concerned that there won’t be space for them, that there won’t be room for them or that the hospitals are so overcrowded that it won’t be safe for them,” said Meyers. “So we really are working on dispelling both of those myths.”
Advocates continue raising awareness for the importance of medical attention after an incident, even if symptoms aren’t present.
They are also participating in an on-going effort with the Wichita Police Department to raise awareness for domestic violence while encouraging survivors to seek medical attention. Police said seeing a doctor after an assault could be life-saving.
“The effects can be long-lasting or show up a few hours after the incident,” said Meyers.
“We can make sure that they get the proper care that they need, but we also want to prevent any future cases of abuse or whatever is going on with them,” said Marlier.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the Wichita Family Crisis Center through the Crisis Line at 316-267-SAFE. You can remain anonymous.
For online resources from the crisis center, click here.
If you need immediate medical attention, visit your local hospital’s emergency room.