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Workshop addresses assault

Bridget Feeney | Monday, February 27, 2012


For the second year in a row, Saint Mary’s College hosted a workshop to inform students about the various procedures victims undergo in the hospital after surviving sexual assault.

The workshop, which was sponsored by the Saint Mary’s Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) and the Student Nursing Association (SNA), featured Francie Henley and Carrie Higgins, two nurses from the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. 

Henley, who has been a nurse for 31 years, said victims now receive structured testing — but it was not always that regulated. 

“About 30 years ago, if you were a victim of sexual assault, you didn’t receive good help,” she said. “You had to wait a long time to see someone and get help. Nurses, being the caring people that we are, decided to do something about it.” 

Henley and Higgins are both trained as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) and work in the emergency room at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center to conduct medical and forensic exams on victims of sexual assault. 

Higgins, who has been a nurse for four years, said the process for attaining a SANE accreditation requires extensive training, classroom hours and testing.

“Getting your SANE certification is a lot like taking board exams,” Higgins said. 

Though SANEs are responsible for collecting forensic evidence and obtaining facts, Higgins said they also act as legal experts, advocates and support systems for patients.

“You have to have a special personality to be a SANE; not everyone can do it,” she said. “You need a soft heart for the victim and have to be willing to stand up and fight for them.”

Monday’s presentation also provided a brief demonstration of what exactly happens when a victim undergoes a kit for sexual assault. 

Henley said the process takes three to four hours, and includes blood draws, swabs, taking photographs and collecting other forms of evidence. 

Higgins said this routine is so lengthy because it requires great attention to detail.

“When we do a sexual assault kit, it is very precise and discreet,” she said. “It is a step by step process that [SANEs] take very seriously.”

Connie Adams, assistant director for BAVO, said she hopes the event will be a learning experience for attendees.

“While BAVO’s ultimate aim is to reduce violence through prevention programming, the reality of violence [is that it] exists,” she 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.”

Adams said she hopes students will take the opportunity to educate themselves on the number of options offered to victims, by Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, Saint Mary’s BAVO and other hospitals.

“It is important for Saint Mary’s women to know the resources available to them and have accurate knowledge of the types of services offered,” she said. “Women have the right to know what to expect and how to seek support.”