OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Sexual assault forensic exams took place at a much higher rate than last year at hospitals Action 2 News spoke with Monday.
Sexual assault forensic exams increased by 75 percent at Thedacare and by 24 percent at Aurora Medical Center in Oshkosh in 2017 compared to 2016.
"It (forensic exams) can be the first point of connection for a survivor of sexual assault," said Marianne Radley of Reach Counseling.
Reach Counseling in Neenah tells us it responded to 87 percent more exams last year.
Medical professionals and counselors don't believe more sexual assaults are taking place but rather more survivors are feeling comfortable enough to come forward.
"There's been a lot of shame and stigma removed from survivors and them feeling like they can come forward," said Radley.
All three also saw a spike toward the end of 2017, the same time sexual assault became a major national conversation and the "#MeToo" movement gained momentum.
Aurora tells us that its sexual assault forensic exams go to the state crime lab with priority when cases involve children and strangers.
The forensic nurse says it's not only important to come for the exam but also for the emotional support given from the counselor.
"Starts the healing process, prevents them from keeping all of that emotion inside," said Brenda Doolittle, Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner for Aurora Medical Center- Oshkosh.
"Whether it’s through working with an advocate, they can work with a therapist at the same time,” Radley said. “They can also attend support groups so we have a lot of different avenues people can take advantage of."
Aurora and Reach hopes this connection with survivors gets even stronger.
"This conversation has started and I don't see it stopping anytime soon,” Radley said. “So I hope with the national momentum we can keep it going here in the Fox Cities."