July 22, 2004
by lyle e davis
by lyle e
It was all a blur . . .
she doesn’t remember everything. She remembers she was in an alley and some
type of forcible sexual act took place,, a sexual assault on her . . . . then
things faded out . . . and the next things she remembers is being in a house . .
she went to the bathroom and vomited . . . then she was in a bed . . . and she
was being sexually assaulted again . . . but she can’t remember the details.
Bits and pieces of blurry memory kept fading in and out . . . .
The girl above was 17
when all this happened a little over a year ago. She was still in high school.
As so often happens, the news of her “sexcapade” spread around school the next
few days and weeks and her life became rather difficult. Somehow, it became as
though she had raped the guy! As so often happens in sexual assault cases the
victim is often blamed for having been attacked.
She had not requested
this sexual attention, she was assaulted against her will, the rapist was a
casual acquaintance, not well known to her at all. There was never any question
of intimacy between them . . . at least not in the traditional sense. One has
to stretch the imagination to even think of rape as an “intimate experience.”
Up until this time she
had not been sexually active. She was a virgin. She had lost her virginity and
it was not a pleasant nor romantic experience.
After the multiple sexual
assaults she managed to find a couch where she finally fell into a fitful
sleep. The next morning she awakened at about
She was in so much pain,
it hurt to sit up straight. She contacted her mom, a pediatric nurse, and told
her the story. Kind of.
In fact, she lied to her
“I told my mom I had been
staying overnight with a girl friend . . . I also told her I thought someone had
spiked the punch . . .I had gotten dizzy and . . . . it happened.
My mom called the cops
and rushed me to Children’s Hospital. We waited forever to be seen. We were
concerned about the long wait ‘cause mom knew that there was a time limit on how
effective a forensic examination could be. She wanted to make sure any evidence
there was could be found and preserved.
The cops took a
statement and I lied to them as well. I lied to the doctors, the police, the
social worker . . . then the second time all the lies came apart and I told the
truth. I just wanted to get checked and get it over again. My biggest fear was
that this guy had gotten me pregnant.
My mom found out I wasn’t
staying at my girl friend’s home. That’s when the truth came out.
We had gone to the mall,
shopping. My girl friend saw this friend and we decided to maybe go see a
movie, or maybe just hang out. We wound up going to his house. He invited a
few friends over and we were going to have ‘a small party.’ There was alcohol
there and I drank a lot of it. There was grass (marijuana) and I smoked a lot
of weed. I suppose I was ‘testing the limits.’ I had been caught partying by
my mom before so I wasn’t anxious to be caught again.
Somewhere along the line,
it must have been around
is when I vaguely remember being attacked in the alley. All the rest of it is
just a blur. I wish it had never happened, but it did. And I can’t undo it.”
“They discovered that the
guy knew what he was doing. He used a condom, so there was no DNA to recover.
They found a laceration of 2 centimeters on my perineum. The guy said that was
a result of ‘heavy petting.’ The police had questioned the guy, but they didn’t
arrest him. I was 17, he was 19. If there is a four year difference it’s a
mandatory statutory rape charge . . . but there were only two years difference
in our ages. I guess the cops figured they didn’t have enough evidence to book
She spent the better
part of a whole day, from
10am to 3pm at Children’s
Hospital. She was then referred to SART.
Sexual Assault Response Team
Diana Faugno is a
registered nurse who heads up the SART unit in
where most of the patients are referred following a rape. Faugno, a long time
resident, is the Director of Pediatrics Neonatal and Forensic Health Services,
which includes SART and the Child Abuse Program.
Diana Faugno, Director,
Forensic Health Services
She was at the clinic
when the girl arrived.
The unit is spotless,
all of the latest medical equipment, laboratory facilities and, most of all, a
staff that is caring and compassionate and who understand that what a
victim/patient needs at this point is understanding and gentle treatment to help
her not only recover from her trauma, but also to provide the necessary
information to find the person responsible for the rape and, where possible, to
was really nice,” the girl said. “SART was a really cool thing.”
“I walked in there and
they couldn’t have been nicer. I had to do a lot of things. They had to take a
nude photo of me against a blue screen. This was to photograph any and all
injuries to my body . . . the photo would show the bruises. They would also do
close-ups of my genital area, to document any cuts or bruises there. They also
did fingernail scrapings, so if I had scratched the guy during the assault, they
might be able to recover DNA from those scrapings. They took my old underwear
and gave me fresh underwear. They had me give a urinalysis sample. They
prepared a chart and made notations as to where on my anatomy there were any
bruises; this would later be compared to the photos, if and when it went to
court. They had me point to the chart as to “where he touched me,” and “where
the examination was over, they gave me a beautiful Teddy Bear. I still have
that and it means a lot to me.
I was then allowed to
shower and change into clean clothes. I was given a lovely overnight kit and
then I was finally finished. The whole procedure had lasted about two hours,
from 4pm to about
It was a major feeling
In addition to the major
emotional and physical trauma I went through from having been raped, I also had
a big time emotional problem from having lost the trust of my mom, my dad, and,
to a lesser extent, my 15 year old sister. Things are better now. I’m pretty
close to my mom and I think the trust is back. My dad, who is separated from my
mom, remains somewhat distant . . .my sister, well, she just does her own
Diana Faugno: “I was
working with the Child Abuse Program when it was proposed that we should begin a
SART program back in 1990. It was just a natural progression for me to get
involved in that program as well.
Since then, we have
served most of North
That includes Camp
Julian, Ramona, Fallbrook,
We see victims from all of these communities.
Our role is to not only
receive the victim in a compassionate and quiet, professional environment, but
we also have to provide a written report on the evidentiary exam we conduct.
This report goes to the law enforcement agency that requested and approved the
examination. They then conduct their own investigation and refer to the
District Attorney’s office.
Kate Flaherty is the
Deputy District Attorney that determines whether to seek prosecution, assigns
cases and prosecutes them as well.”
rape is one of the most under-reported crimes we are aware of. This is due to a
lot of factors. There is still the stigma of having been raped . . . there is
the fear of retribution . . . there is the feeling by the victim that maybe she
contributed to the rape, particularly if there was alcohol or drugs involved.
We don’t buy that argument. No woman has a tattoo on her forehead that says . .
. “please rape me!” Often, the person committing a rape is well known to the
victim. It could be a family member, a friend, or a significant other. There
are many reasons why a rape will go unreported. But, we are here for those who
need us. If they need medical attention, if they need counseling, if they need
protection by law enforcement, we can either offer all of this, or coordinate it
and see that it gets done. We have a very effective follow-up program with our
Editor’s Note: There
is more abuse that occurs than one would imagine. There are multiple levels of
abuse. There is domestic violence, substance abuse, and child abuse within the
published a study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in 1998
regarding the findings of a survey that 15,000 adult patients of Kaiser
Healthcare responded to. In the study, more than half of the respondents
reported at least one incident of exposure to what was defined as an adverse
childhood experience (ACE). The study demonstrated a clear link between exposure
to abuse or household dysfunction (ACE) and multiple risk factors for several of
the leading causes of death in adults including smoking, alcoholism and
obesity. Further, studies show that a contributing factor toward obesity is
intentional obesity as a means of making oneself less attractive to members of
the opposite sex, thus less likely to attract a sexual assault.
Diana Faugno: “The
SART program started at
It was the first program of that type in
Actually, the SART program based here in
is largely due to the vision of Dianna Pitcher, a detective with the Escondido
Police Department. She works the CAP (Child Abuse Program) and was impressed
with the success they had with the team approach. She suggested that a similar
approach would work well with Sexual Assault crimes. Thus the SART unit for
Dianna Pitcher: Up to
1990 victims had to be taken to Palomar Hospital Emergency Room. There was no
privacy, the victims were in a waiting room. The Triage Evaluation meant that
if the victim’s injuries were not life threatening then she would wait as much
as four or five hours before being seen. The ER doctors and nurses weren’t
trained to treat sexual victims. The exams were not state of the art in the
sense of preserving evidence for trial, the statements weren’t always as helpful
as they could be. I just thought, “Why don’t we have a special unit here for
sexual assault victims.
Pomerado Hospital had a
SART unit but if they were swamped they’d refer victims to Palomar’s ER. That
meant that officers then had to drive to Palomar. It was not a user friendly
system at that time. So, a whole new concept was developed. Diana Faugno came
up with procdures and concept. We soon began using SAFE (Sexual Assault
Evaluation Center) at 121 N. Fig, in Escondido. We had specialty trained nurse
examiners - who can serve as expert witnesses in court; advocates, who stay with
them, we arrange for counseling, privacy, and quick treatment.
I’m still working in
CAP; we deal with all sex crimes, children, adults, and an elder abuse unit.
(Pitcher is due to retire in about a year).
Escondido Detective Dianna Pitcher, heads up the CAP unit.
Diana Faugno: Once we
got our own SART unit started in
our nurses would go to other areas throughout
and train them in the techniques. The program has grown substantially since its
beginning. It has been well and widely received by the victims as well as law
enforcement agencies, district attorneys. It’s just a positive program that
deals with a very negative problem.
We do go to law
enforcement agencies and offer training, when requested. They also have
developed in house training for their officers.”
Several areas of information were surprising to us. We learned, for example,
that the largest number of incidents involving sexual abuse involve kids . . .
children under the age of 14. In any given month, if there are 50 sexual abuse
cases, 30 of them will be children under the age of 14. 20 will be for
‘adults.’ At SART an adult is rated as 14 years of age and older. The bulk of
the cases reported here are adolescents . . . the early to mid teens.
Particularly with the
smaller children sexual abuse tends to be more in the nature of molestation.
Touching and rubbing of intimate parts rather than penetration, either digital
or penile. The problem looms larger because the young children don’t always
know that what is happening is not appropriate. Usually, the offender is
someone known to the child and or the family and has access to the victim.
Being a trusted member of the family circle often causes an unawareness of the
fact that the acts being committed are inappropriate.
Diana Faugno: We
enjoy the strong support of the
of Supervisors. Supervisor Slater has been a strong supporter of ours, but the
entire board realizes how important it is to support a program such as ours.
And Supervisor Bill Horn has long been a supporter. And of course, Dianna
Pitcher, with the Escondido Police Department. She’s about ready to retire now,
but she deserves a lot of credit for suggesting this idea and following it
through. Following her suggestion, we put the program together. Then, in
August of 1991, the County
of Supervisors gave its official blessing and the program began to grow even
Simply stated, the
mission of the Palomar-Pomerado Health Forensic Health Services, which includes
the SART program is:
On a 24 hours a day, 7
days a week basis, to improve the provision of services to victims of sexual
assault in San Diego by providing sensitive, efficient, interdisciplinary
services, and to ensure accurate evidence collection to promote the apprehension
and prosecutions of perpetrators.
The team includes
Physicians, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, Child Interview Specialists, Victim
Advocates, and multi-disciplinary investigative teams of community agencies.
SART has provided for
more privacy. Victims of sexual assault are now separated from the Emergency
Department for medical-legal examinations. The waiting rooms and examination
rooms are separate from each other.
To date, over 3000
examinations have been conducted by SART units for sexual assault. In the year
2001 alone, over 830 women were reported raped in the
area, averaging out to more than two rapes being reported per day. Many more go
unreported for reasons mentioned earlier.
Indicative of the success
the SART program has had from a victim’s viewpoint, here are some comments from
• “I received swift,
appropriate response from the time I called 911 to the time that I was
released. Everyone involved did an excellent job of making me feel safe and
treated well. Thank you!”
• Written about the
police officer: “To be so young, he was extremely courteous and considerate
while he obtained the necessary info from me. I felt both safe and like I could
tell him the necessary embarrassing details. He followed me home at 3 in the
morning and made sure my house was safe.”
• “The detectives who
were there with me were two of the best people I’ve ever come across. They made
the whole thing a lot easier.”
“The RN could not have been any kinder and compassionate. She explained
everything in advance and completely. She did everything possible to put me at
ease in the most difficult situation of my life.”
Studies Show . . .
Boiling the statistical
studies down to a composite picture we can expect to find the the ages of 15 to
17 is the most prevalent age at which evidentiary exams are conducted at SART
clinics; exam rates for black females 18 years and older were over twice the
white rate. The Hispanic female examination rate was 31.5 per 100,000 for
female residents, 18 years and older. At Palomar-Pomerado Hospitals, however,
67% of the victims were White, 22% Hispanic, 8% Asian and other, and only 4%
77% of adult/adolescent evidentiary examinations, positive visible physical
findings were identified.
The time of sexual
assault is well established as generally being between
6pm and 6am with the peak
time being at 3am.
Within the county, 47% of
adult exams are ordered by the
San Diego City Police
Department, 20% by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, 9% by Oceanside
Police Depart-ment, 5% by Escondido Police Department, 4% by Chula Vista P. D
and the same for El Cajon P.D.
(All statistics from the
on SART units for 2001).
A Rape Occurs . . .
• Call 911 immediately.
• Preserve all physical
• Seek further physical
and emotional help as needed.
• Remember, the assault
was NOT the survivor’s fault.
Almost all of the
services are without cost to the individual. If requested by a law enforcement
agency, there is no fee to the victim.
A Speaker’s Bureau is
available to speak to groups such as Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions Club, etc. If you
would like someone to speak to your group, please contact Diana Faugno at
760.739.3444, or email her at:
email@example.com . If you’d like Detective Dianna Pitcher to speak to your group,
call her at 760.839.4745.