Ensuring an efficient and victim-centered response for survivors of sexual assault is a community effort that requires collaboration from a number of different agencies. Over the years, Embrace and its community partners have worked hard to improve the treatment that sexual assault victims receive.
Meeting frequently at Coordinated Community Response (CCR) meetings, attending trainings, adopting new sexual assault investigation worksheets, and utilizing the Child Advocacy Center are just a few of the ways that agencies have worked to improve the process.
But one critical component that remained a barrier was the lack of local Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, aka SANE nurses.
“SANE nurses are registered nurses who have received advanced education and training in the medical-forensic examination of sexual assault victims. They have skills in injury identification, evaluation, documentation and referral. SANEs have also been trained to respond to the psychological and emotional trauma that may be present after an assault.” (Wisconsin Department of Justice, 2014)
Due to the area’s lack of SANE nurses, victims from Washburn County would have to travel anywhere from Rice Lake to Marshfield to receive an exam, and that further delay in receiving treatment made what was already a challenging situation even more difficult.
People who receive the SANE exams may do so because they want evidence collected for an investigation, because they want to receive a medical evaluation, or both, and it is crucial that they are able to get to a nurse as soon as possible after the assault. The uncertainty of not knowing exactly where or how soon a victim would be able to receive services is problematic because it can further traumatize the victim, and because timely access to a SANE program is a crucial component of preserving and collecting any evidence from the crime.
Fortunately, in December of 2016 one of the area hospitals took a huge step forward in its commitment to supporting victims of sexual assault by having two of its nurses complete their SANE certification. The certification process involves a classroom portion and a clinical portion.
While the procedures associated with Spooner Health’s SANE Program are still in the process of being formalized, the future of what will come from this program looks bright.
When sexual assault survivors are able to receive a SANE exam, they are able to receive treatment specific to the trauma that has impacted them. Part of this treatment includes medical treatment, but also referrals to resources as well. The nurses can assist in connecting the victim with an advocate from Embrace to support them through the exam, a law enforcement representative, or other needs they may have, too.
Currently, Spooner Health does not have 24/7 SANE coverage nor are they certified to perform exams on pediatric patients. If you or someone you know needs an exam, it would be helpful to call any of these numbers first to ensure you are connected to the closest available SANE nurse to meet your needs:
> Spooner Health, 715.635.2111.
> Law enforcement: Washburn County Sheriff’s Office, 715.468.4700; Shell Lake Police Department, 715.468.7640; Spooner Police Department, 715.635.3527; Minong Police Department, 715.466.2266; Birchwood Police Department, 715.354.3444.
If you or someone you know is a sexual or domestic violence survivor, please contact Embrace for confidential support services at 715.635.5245.
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