Grace Coons, New York, Koons discussed on Hampton Roads Perspective
This box is the sexual assault Evidence Collection kit. Um what should be used Anywhere, and New York State. Grace Coons is the supervisor of the Forensic Examiner program in the Crime Victim Services unit at ST Peter's Health Partners. Standing in the emergency department at Samaritan Hospital in Troy, New York, She opens a rape kit to show me the envelopes and instructions inside. Contact by kissing or oral penetration. So there is a set of, um Q tips or oral swabs. I have to say, imagining going through the steps as if I were the patient, a genital swab photos of bruising DNA samples and recounting the story for the Advocate or the nurse to here. It seems overwhelming. But Koons has a very confident air about her like a mom. You would call late at night. If you were in trouble, and she would swoop in and make it all OK. For good reason. Koons has been an examiner for about four years and has seen hundreds of patients for varying types of abuse. Coons is a nurse practitioner and manages about 38 per diem nurses. They take varying shifts to administer forensic examinations for victims of rape and abuse. And the amount of abuse patients they see is upsetting. This year. We're actually averaging approximately 40 per month. Last year total our program sought 280 patients. So so far at the close of May, our program was at 215. So we're Almost double the volume of last year. Just with this year, Coon says, it's nearly impossible to identify trends of who gets raped or abused. There is no set demographic. It can happen to you. Male female transgender. All ages. Um, we see Basically from infant all the way to elderly folks in their eighties. Um, so there's a very wide range of our patient population, So it's not a specific Demographic or race or or anything like that says they see patients for all types of abuse, not just sexual. Usually Children come in because of a domestic violence incident. We could see them for a physical assault. We could also see them for A sexual assault exam, so it might be something that is either Known um and so we are collecting evidence for a known sexual assault or Something that is presumed or that there's a hunch. Um, you know, that's something just doesn't seem right. Um maybe somebody heard something, or, um, You know their genitalia is suspicious. Redness. Um You know, and an unusual bruise or child Just not acting right? And, um, parent or guardian wants the child checked out. Sometimes we can also see Pediatric patients. Because of, um CPS involvement and CPS is I'm requesting the exam, Coon says to prove sexual assault. You need DNA. That's where the rape exam kits come in. We want to make sure that the patient is medically stable. So that's our number one before we're doing anything. Um Making sure that their medical needs are addressed. If there is anything that let's say the patient was strangled, Um they'll need some imaging done to make sure that there is no internal injuries done that we can't see so then it get I that could potentially be life threatening. Then we would go into. Um, certainly a safety plan and Then going into, um what Their options are for evidence Collection, Coon says. Evidence collection is always the third priority. The exam is always patient driven. If they would like to proceed with doing that Evidence collection kit looking for DNA will go ahead and do that. They can consent to some of the kit and not all of the kids. They may also want to do blood and urine samples to see if there may be any drugs in their system. Let's say, you know, the common term would be rue feed. Let's say someone had something put in their drink. They would also be able to choose if they wanted to have their injuries photographed. Um, any photographs would be used for evidence purposes only been held in a secured location. So President. New York State law job has evidence being held for up to 20 years. While someone would choose whether or not they wanted their evidence processed for DNA. You know, someone today may not want to report to law enforcement may not want their kit tested for DNA, but maybe 23 years down the line, even 20 years, they may say, Jeez, you know, I've been really thinking about this or I heard This person did something to somebody else, and I really think it's time that I have my evidence tested. Coon says her job is important because often she's the first person a survivor of rape or abuse will interact with after the incident. That's really what it's all about Making that humanistic connection and Meeting them on their level. You're you're really connecting with these patients on Potentially one of their artists days. Of their life and just being able to say Okay, Here's what I can do for you. Um, even if you don't want it. Here's what I can do for you and I take no offense if you don't want to participate, and that's just kind of what it's all about just showing that year. Raw with them. Coons lays it out for me. Literally. We went through a rape examination kit together. Here's what you can expect. If heaven forbid you are raped and go to the emergency Department for help in New York state. One.