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Nurse discusses assault treatment program

Sarah Swiderski | Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Saint Mary’s students gained insight Tuesday into the workings of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) during a talk with Francine Henley, SANE program coordinator at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.

Henley said the SANE position developed approximately 30 years ago in response to the needs of sex-crime victims who were receiving insufficient treatment.

“Different groups were doing research. … The biggest point that [victims] made was that they felt like they were being re-assaulted,” Henley said. “[The victims] received no compassion.”

The response came in the form of “pioneer nurses” who sought training to offer better care and to become better expert witnesses in the proceedings after an assault, Henley said. SANEs are employees of the U.S. Department of Justice.

“It was a bad situation to be in, but the SANE nurse made it better,” Henley said.

Belles Against Violence Office director Connie Adams said SANEs contribute significantly to handling cases of sexual assault.

“SANE programs are incredibly valuable assets to communities,” Adams said. “SANEs deeply impact the lives of survivors of violence and their loved ones. A SANE often serves as a calming presence when someone seeks medical attention and walks with them throughout the examination.”

SANEs receive special training to learn how to properly perform a sexual assault exam and assist in the legal proceedings that often follow, Henley said. After 40 hours of training, SANEs fulfill follow-up requirements, such as performing a certain amount of sexual assault exams, auditing a court case, riding along with law enforcement and visiting a crime lab.

“They train you in everything,” Henley said, “They train you how to testify [and] what to wear in addition to [how to perform] the examination.”

In addition to informing audience members about the nature of the work of SANEs, Adams said the event intended to enable victims and friends of victims to act in an informed way in response to an assault.

“Violence and abuse are a part of college communities across the country and they impact Saint Mary’s as well,” Adams said. “Providing education to women provides options. While attendees may not personally need the information, it can be invaluable to share with a friend or family member. Women have the right to know what to expect and how to seek support.”