Mar 27, 2024 - Politics

North Shore sexual assault survivors left with few options after embattled coroner drops services

 Illustration of a person with their head in their hands, sitting against a larger-than-life stethoscope.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The newly-elected St. Tammany Parish coroner under fire for past sexual assault allegations is facing even louder calls to resign after suddenly disbanding the North Shore medical team charged with providing sexual assault examinations.

Why it matters: The move means sexual assault survivors in five parishes may face examinations performed by less experienced practitioners as nearly a dozen North Shore hospitals now have to pick up the slack.

Catch up quick: In February, WWL reported on sexual assault allegations against St. Tammany's then-coroner elect, Christopher Tape.

  • Tape had been accused in 2002 of six counts of child sexual assault, the TV station reported, but the case was eventually thrown out because authorities took too long to charge Tape after his arrest.
  • Tape told WWL he was falsely accused.
  • Then, last week, Tape announced he was disbanding the team of nurses trained specifically for sexual assault cases, called SANE, giving impacted hospitals only five days' notice.

By the numbers: The SANE team saw 158 patients, conducted five post-mortem exams and consulted on another 11 patients in 2023, according to data collected by advocacy organization STAR from a former SANE member.

  • The exams SANE team members conduct collect forensic evidence for possible criminal cases

Friction point: Elected officials have for weeks called for Tape to resign his post, according to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WBRZ, and now residents have begun a recall petition.

  • But Tape so far refuses to step down.
  • In a press conference Monday at his swearing-in ceremony, Tape told reporters, "The only way to stop me is to kill me," according to WWL.
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