Grace Cottage Provides a Safe Place for Victims of Sexual Assault

| Graceful Health

by Christine Morris, RN, Pediatric/Adult SANE and Lisa May, RN, Clinical Nurse Educator, Grace Cottage Hospital

Sexual assault has been much in the news lately, and it’s more common than most people realize.
On average, there are over 380,000 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the U.S. Over 60,000 of these attacks involve children under the age of 12. Also, it’s a common misconception that only women fall victim to sexual assault. According to the Department of Justice, 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male.

These statistics are frightening. Even more concerning is that these numbers only reflect those that have the courage and support to seek help following an attack. Not knowing where to go, plus feelings of fear, guilt and shame, as well as the stigma associated with rape often prevent victims from receiving necessary medical attention and emotional support.

Grace Cottage Hospital has two registered nurses on staff who are specially trained by the Vermont Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program to provide confidential, compassionate care and emotional support for patients during an extremely traumatic, frightening time. These two nurses hold both adult and pediatric certifications, and they are always on call, 24/7.
The Vermont SANE program provides advanced education and clinical training to select RNs so that they are qualified to provide medical care to victims of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence. These services are available for both the pediatric and adult population. Currently, there are 53 SANE trained nurses in the State of Vermont. Grace Cottage’s two SANE nurses are the only pediatric-certified SANE nurses in southern Vermont.

Men, women, and children who come to the Grace Cottage Emergency Department following an attack will be placed in a private area and receive prompt treatment for physical injuries in addition to screening for sexually transmitted diseases, infection, and/or pregnancy. The SANE nurse will examine the victim and collect evidence to assist in the investigation if the patient decides to report the crime to law enforcement officials. All information and evidence obtained is kept confidential. If the victim chooses not to report the crime to law enforcement officials, the evidence is preserved, and securely stored, so that if at any time the victim changes his or her mind and decides to pursue criminal charges against the perpetrator, the evidence can be turned over to the police.

Victims are advised to seek medical attention as soon as possible following an assault. It is important not to shower, brush teeth or change clothes before coming to the hospital. Patients will be given clean clothes, and offered a place to shower following the exam.
Resources for ongoing counseling and support are also be provided. Also, victims are referred to The Women’s Freedom Center in Brattleboro or the closest domestic/sexual violence agency near where they live. These resources can also help those who suffered an assault in the past but did not immediately report it.

No one needs to feel alone and unsure of what to do after being raped. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are available to provide the care and support necessary to begin the journey of healing.

Christine Morris received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Johnson State College in 2005 and her Associate’s Degree in Nursing at Vermont Technical College in 2014. She previously worked in the domestic and sexual violence field where she met her first SANE nurse who inspired her to pursue a career in nursing. She currently works at Grace Cottage Hospital as both an Emergency Department and Pediatric/Adult SANE nurse. Lisa May received her Associate’s Degree in Nursing at Castleton University in 1989, and a Bachelor’s Degree from The University of North Carolina in 2009. She completed training in forensic medicine while in North Carolina, and is currently the Clinical Nurse Educator at Grace Cottage Hospital.