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Multiple Media Outlets Allow Buck to Exaggerate His Role in Starting a Program for Rape Victims

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Under media scrutiny, led by the Colorado Independent, for saying in 2006 that a jury might believe an alleged rape victim had "buyer's remorse," even though her attacker admitted raping her, Ken Buck has responded, in part, by telling reporters he subsequently "started" a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) program.

This highly regarded program trains hospital personnel to provide special care for rape victims.

But Buck did not start a SANE program.

Buck's Weld County District Attorney's Office was one of the agencies in Weld County that began participating in a SANE program, after a Larimer County hospital began operating one, according to SANE officials in Colorado.

Yet media outlets report that Buck's campaign has claimed that Buck actually started a SANE program, even implying that he led the effort:

The Politico reported Oct. 11:

Buck's campaign also notes that as a prosecutor, he started a multiagency sexual assault review team and sexual assault nurse examiner program to provide care to victims and collect evidence in criminal cases.

ABC's The Note reported Oct. 12:

[Buck spokesperson Owen] Loftus pointed out that as district attorney, Buck started a program for victims of sexual assault and helped raise funds for a specialized nurse program to help treat victims of sexual abuse.

KRDO television in Colorado Springs asked Buck for comment on the rape case, and he "declined comment." But his campaign issued this statement Sept. 21 to KRDO:

As a prosecutor, I have dedicated my life to protecting people from heinous crimes like rape and incest. As District Attorney of Weld County, I have implemented several programs such as SANE and SART, to help victims and ensure that perpetrators are put behind bars.

Before becoming District Attorney of Weld County, women who were sexually assaulted had to wait long hours in waiting rooms before being examined. I started SANE, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, to provide compassionate and trained nurses to help victims of sexual assault. SANE ensures that victims are examined as soon as possible in a private environment. The program provides compassionate nurses who are trained in sexual assault examinations and qualified as trial witnesses to examine victims right away.

In each of these cases, reporters should have stated that Buck did not start a SANE program.

"There is no SANE program in Colorado that was single-handedly initiated by a district attorney," Val Sievers, Colorado SANE Director, told me.

"Sexually Assault Nurse Examiner programs are nurse-based practice programs that are typically associated with a hospital so they can see patients, provide them care, provide them medication, and provide them support," she said.

"In the 15 years that I've been providing the SANE education to nurses and physicians in Colorado, SANE programs have been initiated and developed at hospital facilities with the support of social services, law enforcement, and district attorney's offices. These hospitals typically submit an application for initiating a SANE program, which says we are going to have these components in place."

It turns out that no hospital in Weld County has a functional SANE program, so rape victims in Weld County are transported to Loveland Medical Center of the Rockies, in Larimer County, for the specialized care provided by SANE-trained personnel, according to Susan Webster, SANE Coordinator at the Loveland Medical Center of the Rockies.

According to Webster, Buck had nothing to do with starting the Loveland SANE program, which serves Greeley, Ft. Collins, and Loveland, Longmont as well as all of Larimer County, Weld County, and portions of Boulder County.

Webster and an advisor started the program in Poudre Valley in 1997, she told me, and when it moved to Larimer County in 2008, the service was offered to surrounding counties, including Buck's Weld County.

"Law enforcement agencies in Weld County have supported our effort by bringing their patients to our program, instead of having them go to the emergency room in Greeley, where there is no SANE program, and where patients may have to wait in the lobby if they go there," Webster explained to me. "Law enforcement responds, and they are brought here after they have been medically cleared by an ER doctor."

So it looks as if the SANE program would have come to Weld County, with or without Buck, though his office has been supportive of the effort.

And even if Buck only played a nominal role in getting the program off the ground, the fact is that rape victims in Weld County are better off for it.

Still, it's disturbing that multiple media outlets allowed Buck to exaggerate his role in starting the program, apparently without checking in with SANE officials who were the real initiators of the effort in northern Colorado.

Buck's office did not respond to multiple emails seeking comment on this blog post.

One of my unanswered questions is why Buck would support, much less tout, a program like SANE that provides Plan B to victims of sexual assault, if they choose it.

Plan B is designed to stop ovulation and the implantation of fertilized eggs in the uterus, with the aim of stopping pregnancy.

Buck believes that life begins at conception, when the egg and sperm meet to form a fertilized egg, and he's opposed birth control methods that potentially threaten fertilized eggs; such birth control methods would include Plan B.

If he really had started SANE, to be consistent with his hard-line position on abortion, Buck would have insisted that SANE not offer Plan B to raped women, and more raped women would likely have gotten pregnant. And Buck opposes letting them choose abortion.

Reporters should consider asking Buck about this