NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — One of the only non-hospital facilities that assists rape and assault victims in Middle Tennessee is worried that an uptick in reports of drug-induced rapes that they’ve seen in the past couple of weeks will turn into a trend.
The Safe Clinic at the Nashville Sexual Assault Center typically assists three or four new victims in a 10-day period; however, that number has more than doubled in that same time frame recently, and most victims say they were drugged while having a night out.
“About every other day is what we were used to seeing,” said Sexual Assault Center Vice President of Marketing Lorainne McGuire. “We have seen days in the last two weeks with like three or four in a day, just a volume we are not used to seeing… it’s really disturbing.”
After hearing about this recent uptick, Ashley Kooijman wanted to share her experience in hopes of it being able to help victims and prevent other people from becoming victims.
“It’s safe that it shifted a fun-love person’s personality to where they can’t go out and feel comfortable,” Kooijman said.
She says she has been raped after being drugged during a night out twice: once when she was 17 and again about nine years ago at a bar in Nashville.
“It just ignited this fire of rage like how can this happen to me for the second time in my life. In a weird way, I thought I had already paid my dues to this nasty culture that’s been created,” she said.
She explained after that first traumatic event she waited a year to report it and spent months trying to come to terms with what happened to her. The second time, she says she still waited about three months to take action because of the physical and mental pain.
“Going to get a rape kit I didn’t do it immediately I was so sick. I was physically ill and my body was bruised from the trauma that happened to me and I felt beat up at the same time. I was so physically distraught I couldn’t carry myself to the hospital,” she said.
The Safe Clinic says that while the physical examination portion of submitting a rape kit can take 15-30 minutes, the time spent with the trained professional can take a couple of hours. But McGuire says simply starting the process takes a lot of strength.
“There are very intimate photos taken of you. It takes a lot of bravery to come in and to get that done,” McGuire said.
Depending on the type of rape, the DNA collection process of reporting one of these events needs to be done at most five days after the incident.
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However, getting the kit processed can take months in Tennessee.
“And that their rapist is still out there potentially doing this to other people and their kit is somewhere still waiting to get processed because the state isn’t putting the resources into this that they need to. It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating,” McGuire stressed referencing the renewed attention on the rape kit backlog in Tennessee since the death of Eliza Fletcher.
For now, Kooijman is focusing on helping bargoers stay safe as she tends bar in Nashville. She says her past has made her strong but hopes other people never need to find strength the same way she did.
“It’s always going to be there, it’s never going to go away, but I think learning how to deal with it, I will tell you, I feel like I am a very powerful very strong individual at this point,” she said.
To be connected with someone with the Sexual Assault Center 24/7 they are available by phone at 866-811-7473 or go to their website.