Sexual Assault Awareness

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual violence is defined as someone being forced or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. Sexual crimes are widespread, and affect males, females, children, adults, and the elderly.

There are many types of sexual violence which, according to National Sexual Violence Resource Center, include: rape, incest, child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure, and voyeurism. Sexual violence is very traumatic to victims. Disclosing information about the event(s) is not always easy, and so the amount of sexual assault events that go unreported outnumber those that are reported.  Sexual assault victims that do come forward to seek medical and/or legal help require special attention.

The SANE program or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program has been training registered nurses to treat sexual assault victims for many years. According to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office,  SANE programs began independent of each other in the late 1970’s, and later in 1992, nurses came together from across the US to form the International Association of Forensic Nursing (IAFN).

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are registered nurses who have received special training so that they may provide comprehensive and specialized care to sexual assault victims in a medical setting. These expert nurses offer prompt and compassionate care, while being careful to preserve dignity and reduce psychological trauma. According to Dr. Derek Robinson, Executive Director of the Quality Care Institute IHI, (as written in Volume 12 No 2 of Illinois Epic)“Having SANE’s involved in the care provides the most effective way to meet the survivor’s need for compassionate care, delivered by professionals with the time and training necessary to care for the physical and emotional  needs of survivors.”

SANE’s work within a network of interdisciplinary professionals, called a Sexual Assault Response Team, or SART. Besides SANEs, the SARTs include advocates, police, and prosecutors. The team’s goal is to assure that the response to sexual assault cases is victim-centered, compassionate, and has the best chance at bringing justice.

Passavant Area Hospital is designated as the Illinois Region 3 SANE Hospital. Passavant Hospital’s Emergency Room is staffed with 5 SANE nurses, Beth Maro, Monica Eilers, Charlene Bushnell, Lea Bergschneider, and SANE coordinator, Kris Co; as well as one SANE nurse in the Educational Services Department, Julie Garner.

Passavant has offered trained SANEs to Jacksonville and the surrounding communities since 2001, and according to coordinator Kris Cox, the program has continued to grow. In 2012, the hospital committed to the goal of providing 24/7 SANE care, and provided training to additional nurses. Emergency Room Director Dr. Scott Boston has great things to say about Passavant’s efforts, stating: “the SANE  program at Passavant area hospital provides excellent service for people in a time of great need both physically and emotionally. We have some especially gifted nurses that give of themselves to help this very special patient population.”

According to Cox, the designation as the Region 3 SANE hospital means that “Passavant is committed to sending clinicians to classroom training and continuing education and development.  We keep our nurses up to date on their education, and remain committed to providing excellent care to sexual assault victims.”

SANE training is provided by the Attorney General’s office free of charge, as it is funded by a grant for clinical and forensic services. The office of AG Lisa Madigan is working to increase the number of SANEs and to promote their training to the fullest extent. In order to track the progress of these goals, the office keeps a “scorecard” of active SANE clinicians and hospitals.

During its recent Magnet survey, Passavant received exemplary recognition for its SANE program. The Magnet appraisal recognized that the SANE program goes above and beyond what may be expected of a hospital the size and location of Passavant.

This year, Cox and her team of SANEs are recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month by getting the word out about their program, promoting “Denim Day,” and sharing information about the reality of sexual assault.

Denim Day is an awareness and education campaign that was developed by the organization “Peace Over Violence” in response to a rape case that occurred in Italy. In the case, an Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction, because the justices believed that since the rape victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her assaulter remove them, implying consent. The next day, the women who worked in the Italian Parliament came to work dressed in jeans to show support for the survivor. Denim Day is now held one Wednesday every April. This year, the date is Wednesday, April 23, and Passavant’s SANE nurses ask you to show your protest against the misconceptions surrounding sexual assault by wearing denim that day.

Next week, the SANE nurses will have a display up in the hospital to share information and demonstrate the large number of sexual assaults that happen each year. While people of any race, gender, or age may be sexually assaulted, this year’s display focuses on college aged women. Research shows that one in four women is sexually assaulted.

For example, if a college has 263 full time female students, 65 of those women will be raped, statistically speaking. Only FIVE PERCENT of those rapes or attempted rapes are reported to any type of authority. The SANE nurses have created a visual representation of those 65 women that will be on display on the ground floor of the hospital. Come check it out and look for educational materials on how to prevent and handle sexual assault.

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