Victims of one of the most traumatic experiences imaginable will no longer have to endure a commute to Fairfax County to get the services they need.
Leaders of Inova Loudoun Hospital on Tuesday unveiled the Charles B. and Betty G. Ewing FACT Department, home of the new Ewing Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team at Inova’s Cornwall campus in Leesburg. When it opens next month, victims of sexual assault and domestic violence will be able to go any time of day or night to get expert medical evaluation, forensic evidence collection and medical and emotional support. Victims will no longer have to endure a ride to Inova’s other Ewing FACT department in Fairfax for an examination.
“One of the most serious and important times following the trauma of a sexual assault is in the moment when a survivor steps forward to come forward with evidence, and with an examination,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who was on hand for the announcement. “And it is invasive, it is painful, it brings up all kinds of emotions, which is why it is so important to have a caring, compassionate heart right there with them.”
The center features a private entrance and is staffed by an adult medical director, a pediatric medical director, six sexual assault nurse examiners, and one child life specialist.
Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter Executive Director Judy Hanley said the center would make a difference that victims can get help in Loudoun. Her organization also administers the Child Advocacy Center, in the same building as the new FACT center. But previously, after being interviewed in the Child Advocacy Center, child victims would have to be transported to Fairfax for forensic exams.
“Instead the children can just come up the elevator, or adults can just stay in their community,” Hanley said. “I believe that it shows that Inova, and the Ewing family, and everyone here as well as everybody on our team are telling victims that we care about you, and that’s really important.”
Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman agreed that “it’s really hard to put into words what a huge deal this is.”
“As Judy said, it sends a very loud message to victims that we are here for you, and that’s a big part of what we do and why we do our job.”
Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit Detective David Orr said sexual assault and domestic violence are often underreported.
“Notwithstanding the trauma that the victims suffer, the actual process of an investigation and prosecution is very trying on the victims,” Orr said, including having to be interviewed by law enforcement. “Then you have to go and sit in front a victim and as delicately as possible explain to them that their body is a crime scene, and then to tell them that they’ve got to sit in traffic for another 45 minutes to an hour each way to be able to get the services they need. And as a detective, I can tell you that streamlining this process, while that’s good for me, it’s even better for the victim.”
In 2017, the Inova Ewing FACT Department in Fairfax treated 880 patients, a 30 percent increase from the previous year. Of those 880 encounters, 96 were Loudoun residents. Since Jan. 1, the FACT Department staff has seen 35 Loudoun patients.
“In all of my heart, I wish these services weren’t needed at all, and you wouldn’t get any work here,” Herring said. “But experience tells us you are needed here, and so it is a big step for Loudoun County, what you’re doing here.”
“Within the walls right now, we’re experiencing joy,” said Inova Loudoun CEO Deborah Addo. “The reality is, the next time within these walls won’t be celebration. We won’t be experiencing joy. It will be someone who’s had a tragic event, but what we are able to provide hopefully will be some comfort.”
The new department was made possible through the leadership of Mary Hale, director of the forensic assessment and consultation team, and the generosity of the Ewing family.
“It is with great pride that we can take part in our parent’s legacy,” wrote Sally Sagarese, daughter of Chuck and Betty Ewing, in a prepared statement. “The Inova Ewing FACT Centers are now more important than ever for the care of our community. Knowing children and adults of sexual assault or abuse have a safe place to go and will receive the highest level of care now at Inova Loudoun is incredible. We are honored to be a part of such an important part of our communities’ care.”