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Monday, April 12, 2021

UF Health Shands Hospital unveiled a new private room for sexual assault survivors Wednesday.

The new room gives sexual assault victims a place to be examined that’s removed from the main emergency department, said Dr. Cristina Zeretzke-Bien, the medical director of the sexual assault nurses examination program. Shands used $32,000 from the Alachua County Commission to create the safe space.

“It will also give them a private area that’s going to be a lot more quiet,” Zeretzke-Bien said. “We also focused a lot more on the decor of this room to make it feel not like a hospital room.”

The room has beach-themed decor, walls painted a softer color than most hospital rooms, includes artwork that reads, “You are safe here,” and has images of flowers, hearts and hands extended upward.

Prior to the creation of this room, sexual assault survivors would have to sit outside in the emergency department while waiting to be seen, which can often be loud and overwhelming, Zeretzke-Bien said. She hopes this newly dedicated space will provide comfort while survivors are dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic experience.

“We’re really trying to validate this issue that they’re facing with respect and dignity,” she said.

Zeretzke-Bien also hopes the room will lead to more convictions in sexual assault cases, as the room gives survivors a safe place for forensic evidence to be collected.

Livia Ledbetter, a UF sociology and women’s studies junior, said she feels that a room like this has been needed for years but is thankful it has finally come to fruition.

The 20-year-old thinks the funding provided by the Alachua County Commission proves local government is committed to helping.

“I think it says that they really do have their priorities in order,” she said.


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