No one wants to visit the emergency room, but those who have suffered
sexual assault are particularly sensitive.
The trauma they’ve undergone is both physical and intensely emotional.
While medical care and evidence collection are essential, the right temperament and training are two additional, imperative factors required to ensure these patients aren’t subjected to further anguish.
Supporting Victims from Step One
Sexual assault nurse examiners go through extensive instruction on how to best support victims that come through the emergency department doors, including being fully aware of each patient’s mindset.
“It often takes time for these individuals to wrap their head around what has happened to them,” explains Deanna Booker, a registered nurse (RN), trauma nurse specialist (TNS) and sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) in the Riverside Emergency Department. “Some are dealing with a reality of escaping death. Others may not remember everything that occurred.”
They require time, encouragement, and support to be able to share their story with the nurse.
SANE training employs trauma-informed care. Nurses put themselves in the shoes of the patient and try to understand what the patient may have experienced.
Empathy is mandatory when treating these individuals. “Not only are you taking care of a patient who has just been through a terrible, traumatic experience, but you’re also taking care of their emotions,” says Booker. “The emotional part is just as important as the physical and is a key portion of our formal training.”
To attain SANE certification in the state of Illinois, emergency room nurses must take a 40-hour didactic course through the Illinois Attorney General. This is followed by a rotation of clinical requirements that include caring for patients and survivors of sexual assault.
Online training takes place before in-person classes are attended. SANE training is conducted by the SANE coordinator, who travels around the state to teach the courses. Three days are spent in the classroom, focusing on the anatomy and physiology of male and female genitalia and reproductive systems. Proper techniques for evidence collection are covered as well.
Staff are instructed to be aware of red-flag indictors of human trafficking. Human trafficking isn’t limited to big cities, and Riverside emergency staff are primed to know what to look for. SANE nurses also screen for domestic violence, neglect, and abuse.
For Those Seeking Help
If you or someone close to you has been sexually assaulted, it is critical to pursue medical care. Go to the emergency department immediately. One can also call the emergency department to speak to a sexual assault nurse at Riverside by dialing 815-935-7500.
Patient trust is a priority in treating sexual assault victims. “The number-one thing is that you make sure patients can trust you and they know you believe them,” explains Booker.
Unfortunately, when survivors have to recount the story to multiple people many times over, the process can re-victimize them. This is called “secondary victimization.” In order to prevent further trauma, nurses try to limit the number of encounters patients must have with both the police and providers.
As uncomfortable as it may be for victims, a full examination and evidence collection are crucial components of the emergency visit. Proper evidence collection will aid any legal pursuits.
SANE works closely with the Kankakee County Center Against Sexual Assault (KCCASA), a team of advocates and representatives in the community. Counselors are available 24/7, responding to emergency room reports of sexual assault victims. They follow up with the patient, providing medical legal services and advice.
Kankakee Iroquois Human Trafficking Task Force is another entity that collaborates with emergency personnel. This task force works to combat human trafficking within the community. In conjunction with KCCASA and SANE, new laws and community efforts are being implemented to take care of sexual assault survivors in the area.
*To listen to an interview with Deanna Booker, a registered nurse (RN), trauma nurse specialist (TNS) and sexual assault examiner nurse (SANE) in the Riverside Emergency Department, please follow this link: https://radiomd.com/riverside/item/37271