Craig Watkins and Co. would like to remind you, as polls open in the thus-far highly contentious Dallas County District Attorney race, that Craig Watkins is committed to "protecting Dallas women." With more than 1,000 rape kits backlogged -- even Detective Olivia Benson is pissed about that -- and sexual assault numbers remaining up in the double digits while the rest of violent crime reports decline, Dallas today seems like an especially bad time and place to be a victim of a sexual assault. Watkins is championing his involvement with a program called SANE -- stands for "sexual assault nurse examiner" -- meant to make the traumatic aftermath of assault easier for both victims and prosecutors by placing specially trained nurses in hospitals around the county.
Used to be, only Parkland was qualified to conduct rape-kit exams so they could be admitted into evidence, which meant that regardless of where an assault happened, women and men would have to find their way to the county hospital for another examination to be screened for scientific evidence. Thanks to the efforts of an SMU grad named Courtney Underwood, who contacted Watkins last year about enacting SANE in Dallas County, SANE-trained nurses are in both Parkland and Presbyterian, but Watkins told Unfair Park in a phone interview late Monday that they need to be in every Dallas County hospital.
"If a person has to drive 30 minutes to be examined, it's less likely for that person to share their story," Watkins said. And it's not just physical evidence that will be better preserved, he said. "We'll also have the memory and the emotions that the victim is going through" to help prosecutors build a case.
Watkins told Unfair Park he threw "the full weight of the District Attorney's office" behind Underwood. But don't take it from us. Yesterday, Kurt Watkins passed along a video of Underwood talking about the support she got from Watkins in her SANE crusade. It's after the jump.
Watkins told Unfair Park that, in theory, SANE shouldn't cost the county any money, and that they're applying for grants and seeking private funding to help get SANE nurses in hospitals. Of course, he said, a commissioners' court that sees eye-to-eye with him on fiscal issues would be a big help, ahem.
"Hopefully after Tuesday there will be a pro-public safety commissioners' court in place, and I won't have to fight these battles just for the necessary resources to protect the citizens of Dallas County," Watkins said.