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Sex Assaults Undiscovered

Thousands of sexual assaults remain undiscovered because of a lack of trained New South Wales medical staff, peak doctors and lawyers groups have warned.
The NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the NSW Law Society said frontline medical professionals did not receive adequate training, The Sun-Herald newspaper reported today.
The medical and legal fraternity urged the government not to go ahead with a controversial plan to recruit nurses, who will get one-week intensive training to treat sexual assault victims, to combat the lack of doctors working in the field.
Close to 30 sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) will start work at clinics across the state this week, the newspaper said.
NSW Health defended the SANE model, saying similar models were operating successfully in Canada and the US and had been thoroughly investigated.
But doctors and lawyers groups were concerned nurse examiners would not have the skills and experience to identify signs of sexual assault in patients reluctant to report the incident.
The credibility of the nurse examiners might come under attack in court, resulting in fewer convictions, the groups feared.
AMA workplace relations director Fiona Davies said there were only four forensic physicians specialising in sexual assault, and two of those positions were part time.
Nurses were employed as a "second best" solution to a larger problem, she said.
"There are potentially thousands of victims slipping through the cracks. "It's an untold number," she said.

AAP (7-8-2005)


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