Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Vital to Abuse Victims

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

The trauma surrounding physical and sexual abuse is overwhelming. Victims need prompt medical care and treatment by trained professionals.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, or SANEs offer that support.

In 2011, SANES, at Ministry St. Clare's Hospital in Weston treated 52 patients who had been abused. Sixty-five percent of them were children.

"For me it was very personal I have a family member that was assaulted as a child so for me it was a way to give back, maybe a little bit of therapy for me also," said Amy Simpson, R.N.

When a patient who's been assaulted comes in, a SANE volunteers her time to treat that patient, and can be called in 24 hours a day.

It's a job that is not easy and can be uncomfortable, but is essential for the patient's well-being and for the successful prosecution of sex offenders and abusers.

"We go basically a head to toe exam on them. The first and foremost priority for us is making sure that they're safe and that they're without any life threatening injuries," Simpson said.

Victim advocates are also called in to provide emotional support and resources while SANEs work.

"It's important that we work together so that victims have support. Nurses are really busy having to collect that evidence," said Jessica Lind, program coordinator of the Sexual Assault Services Program at the Women's Community in Wausau.

Exams take several hours. SANEs collect forensic evidence, take pictures, and carefully document what they see.

"They're already traumatized coming in so the first thing we tell them is you call the shots. When you wanna, stop we stop," Simpson said.

Medical care includes offering treatment and preventative medicine for sexually transmitted diseases and emergency contraception.

The work SANEs do can't be underestimated. If patients give consent, evidence SANEs collect is submitted to the state crime lab and is used to arrest, charge and convict perpetrators.

According to the Department of Justice, 770 sexual assault cases were submitted to the state crime lab in 2011.

"We do have a really great team response from our D.A.'s office, law enforcement, sexual assault nurse examiners and our advocates at the Women's Community so victims are starting to come forward knowing that they are going to be cared for," Lind said.

SANEs can collect evidence up to five days after an assault occurred.

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