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Squamish city councillor sounds the alarm about accessibility of rape kits

Squamish city councillor Susan Chapelle wants to see better availability of rape kits in her district. Twitter

A Squamish city councillor says the accessibility of rape kits in her district is a serious concern that needs to be addressed.

Susan Chapelle says currently women who have been raped have to travel to Vancouver so they can be administrated a rape kit to collect evidence samples that would be admissible in court.

Rape kits are used to gather forensic evidence for criminal prosecution. They include a set of items such as swabs, blood collection devices and documentation. Special training is required to ensure that the evidence gathered would stand up in a court of law.

Last November, Chapelle publicly shared her personal story of getting drugged and raped by Selva Kumar (Richard) Subbiah, Canada’s worst serial rapist, 24 years ago. She says while doing her own research, she realized just how much of an ordeal it can be for women who have been raped and want to press charges, to access a rape kit in her own district and parts of the Lower Mainland.

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Currently, there are only two hospitals in the Lower Mainland where this service is available – Surrey Memorial and Vancouver General Hospital.

“It is hard enough to report rape,” says Chapelle. “This also makes it inconvenient, especially after the time when you are emotionally sensitive. Women have to be driven in a RCMP car to a hospital outside of their community, where they don’t have family support.”

She says the issue of accessibility comes down to funding. “It is not that the doctors do not want the training, but the resources are not available,” says Chapelle.

Chapelle took to Twitter with hashtag #fundrapekits to spread the message.

She wants to raise awareness about the issue through her unique perspective. “It is not something people are comfortable speaking about,” says Chapelle.

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Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) tells Global News, health care and support for victims of sexual assault are available at all of their hospitals, including Squamish General Hospital.

“Timely access to this care is taken very seriously within VCH as a whole, regardless of where the event takes place,” says Gavin Wilson with Coastal Health.

“The provision of forensic rape kits in the Sea to Sky region is an issue that Vancouver Coastal Health has been actively engaged with for some time,” says Wilson. “We are working with physicians and other stakeholders in the community to work toward a viable solution that we are hoping will lead to the provision of this service closer to home for these patients.”

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