After the recent opening of its new hospital, Stanford Health Care has signed a letter of intent to partner with Santa Clara Valley Medical Center sexual assault forensic exam (SAFE) team and rape crisis advocates at the hospital’s emergency department starting in 2020, according to county officials.

"For people who have already been traumatized, asking them to go to a remote location that is unfamiliar, away from friends, family and home in their own community, I just think that further aggravates the trauma," Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian said in the announcement. "I'm hopeful that having a SAFE site here in a more familiar environment, closer to home, can lessen some of that trauma."

The announcement coincides with a drastic increase in the number of reported sexual assaults in Santa Clara County, up 58% from 2015 to 2018, according to the county. 

"This partnership with Santa Clara County has allowed Stanford Health Care the opportunity to provide a private and supportive setting in our new emergency department where the county's sexual-assault response team can deliver the highest level of compassionate care," Stanford Health Care President and CEO David Entwistle said in a press release. "We're proud to make this important service available to our surrounding community, which will help patients obtain this essential care more easily."

With an expected opening in February, the emergency department will run 24 hours a day with specially trained nurses on call to perform the exams. The exams are meant to be performed within 72 hours of the assault, and victims do not need to report to the police in order to undergo the exam.

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