Minutes tick by. Anxiety increases. Fear rises of who is going to take care of you and what is going to happen. Fear you will not be heard. Following a sexual assault, a survivor experiences a range of emotions, complex decisions and systems to navigate. Then in the midst of these overwhelming questions and concerns, envision this scene: A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) enters the room who immediately offers compassion, explains your rights to a free medical forensic exam and relieves your concerns by saying that you are in control and can stop the exam at any time.
SANEs are often among the first responders in acute cases of sexual assault and are crucial in providing the initial survivor-centered trauma response. A SANE has education and clinical preparation in the medical forensic care of the survivor. By law, survivors in Florida are entitled to no-cost exams, which include evidence collection, along with advocate accompaniment. To ensure a comprehensive response that includes wraparound services, SANEs work with advocates from Florida’s 31 certified sexual assault centers that provide ongoing confidential services.
In addition to a medical response, our work includes evidence collection.
Communities that use SANEs are better prepared to combat the health consequences of violence. Community-based care invites each of us to help foster supportive environments that promote the best possible response for survivors.
Next week is nationally recognized as Forensic Nurses Week. It is a time to raise awareness about trauma health care professionals. You can amplify these messages in your community by:
· Promoting your local sexual assault center.
· Talking about the need for enhanced health care services for survivors.
· Supporting survivors without putting the responsibility of care on their shoulders.
· Recognizing the nurses in your area who are committed to the health and safety of sexual violence survivors.
If you are a medical professional interested in becoming SANE-trained, please visit the the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence website at www.fcasv.org.
Compassionate care is a critical component in the holistic response to survivors. All survivors deserve to receive care and support that honors their rights to self-determination and bodily autonomy.
Kris-Tena Albers is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Training and Sustainability Program Director at the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence in Tallahassee.
This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Point of view: Specialist nurses needed for sexual assault aftermath.