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Clark wants better rape crisis services in the Bronx, where 25% of alleged NYC rapes take place

The Bronx is the only borough in the city that doesn’t have a hospital-based state-accredited rape crisis center even though 25% of alleged rapes in the city take place there – and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark wants that to change.

Manhattan has six of the state-accredited centers in public  and private hospitals, which provide short- and long-term care for sexual assault victims, state records show.

Despite having among the highest rates of sexual assaults in the state and three large public hospitals – Jacobi, Lincoln and North Central Bronx – plus the sprawling Montefiore private hospital network – the Bronx does not have a center.

The longstanding gap in services spurred Clark this week to send a letter to NYC Health + Hospitals  President and CEO Mitchell Katz calling on the agency to fund such centers at the three public institutions.

“Every other borough has at least one center, and Manhattan has six,” Clark wrote. “The lack of a hospital-based center is especially unfair. The Bronx deserves its fair share of community resources, and victims of sexual assault should have as much support as we can possibly give them.”

The reason why the borough doesn’t have an accredited hospital-based rape crisis center are a bit unclear, based on interviews with various officials.

But that’s not to say the Bronx entirely without such services. The nonprofit Kingsbridge Heights Community Center operates a state-accredited rape crisis center.

And until recently, so did Clark’s office. Its state accredited sexual assault victims office, founded in the 1980s, served 389 survivors in 2022, Clark’s letter said. But the state Health Department recently pulled its accreditation – though it continues to operate.

In a statement, state officials said the DA’s center is not “compliant with client confidentiality requirements.” Health Department spokeswoman Danielle DeSouza said the center can still assist crime victims, but the services should be “accessible, confidential and provided without coercion.”

Joseph Muroff, the chief of the DA’s Special Victims Division, said the central reason the state withdrew accreditation was a concern about having such an operation situated within a prosecutor’s office.

“We were and are the only one in New York,” Muroff said.  “They changed the criteria. It came down to a decision by DOH that a DA’s office should not function as an accredited rape crisis center.”

Muroff said while all hospital have emergency care for a sexual assault victims, accredited hospital-based rape crisis centers typically provide much more – short-term and long-term care and counseling for the trauma that accompanies sexual assault, in addition to the immediate care.

And it’s a more comfortable setting for those survivors who may not want to report the assaults to law enforcement.

“The majority of sexual assault complaints don’t come to the attention of law enforcement,” Muroff said. “You have all of the services with the trained specialists there all in one place in a hospital setting.”

Added Adrienne Giunta, deputy chief of the Special Victims Division, “A rape crisis center is what comes after, the long-term therapy, long-term care.”

Christopher Miller, an NYC Health + Hospitals spokesman, said in a statement:  “We appreciate DA Clark’s partnership and advocacy. We are reviewing her request and look forward to working together on this important issue,” he said in a statement.

Vishakha Mathur, a spokeswoman for Montefiore, said the hospital provides a range of services for victims of sexual assault, though Mathur did not directly address the issue raised by Clark.

“The health and safety of those we care for s our highest priority. Montefiore works with a program funded by New York State to ensure any survivor of sexual assault who comes through our doors receives comprehensive, compassionate care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Mathur said.

Mathur said the program has an examiner via Zoom who can be present for sexual assault exams. The emergency rooms are well-equipped, and staff is offered a 40-hour course in evaluating sexual assault victims. There are also social workers on staff around the clock, she said.


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