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New facility will help sexual assault victims in Loudoun County

INOVA Loudoun's Cornwall Campus (ABC7)

A first-of-its-kind resource for survivors of sexual assault will soon open its doors in Loudoun County.

The new Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team, also known as the FACT Department, will be open at INOVA Loudoun's Cornwall Campus in downtown Leesburg by the end of the month.

"It's so hugely important for this community. Not only is the population growing in Loudoun County, but we are seeing an increase in the number of reported incidents of sexual assault both for adults and children, and so the need for forensic examinations is also increasing," said Mary Hale, who will lead the Leesburg-based FACT Department.

Until now, Hale says anyone sexually assaulted or abused in Loudoun County was forced to drive to the FACT Department in Fairfax to be seen by a forensic nurse. It's a trip that often created additional stress for victims who've already been through so much.

"We know there are so many barriers for victims when it comes to reporting these types of crimes," she said. "So sometimes having them show up at the ER in Loudoun Hospital only to be told they need to travel to Fairfax Hospital for that exam, it creates a barrier that sometimes they can't overcome. And they elect then, not to report."

In 2017, the FACT Department in Fairfax saw 880 patients, a 30 percent increase from the previous year. Of those 880 patients, 96 were Loudoun County residents.

"It wasn't unusual for our Loudoun County detectives to have to transport victims from Loudoun County down to Fairfax, and then wait for that person to have the exam, which can take anywhere from two to four hours and then transport them back," said Hale. "All of that time taken away from the detective’s ability to start investigating the crime. So having this location here means that not only will they be able to respond faster, but they'll have more time to dedicate to investigating these crimes quickly."

Hale says that's one reason why she feels the timing of this new facility is perfect. Another reason: the fact that it comes on the heels of the #MeToo movement.

"I've worked in this field for 18 years and I have never in all that time seen a groundswell of support and conversation on social media and in our communities surrounding sexual assault, and I think the #MeToo movement is the cornerstone piece of that. I think it has fueled, in an amazing way, community support," she said. "Recognizing how resources need to be enhanced, accessibility to resources, and really as a community coming together to create a place where survivors feel supported and believed.”

She said the new Leesburg-based facility was made possible through a generous donation from Charles B. and Betty G. Ewing and family.

Click here to learn more about the FACT Department at INOVA Loudoun Hospital and the services it will provide to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence

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