Need specialists for the aftermath of a sexual assault

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Kris Tena Albers

The minutes go by. Anxiety increases. Fear rises about who will take care of you and what will happen. Be concerned that you will not be heard. Following a sexual assault, a survivor experiences a range of emotions, complex decisions and systems to navigate. Then, in the midst of these overwhelming questions and concerns, imagine this scene: A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) walks into the room who immediately offers compassion, explains your rights to a free forensic examination, and relieves your concerns by saying you are in control and can stop the exam at any time.

SANEs are often among the first responders in acute cases of sexual assault and are essential in providing the initial survivor-centered trauma response. An SANE has training and clinical preparation in the medico-legal care of the survivor. By law, survivors in Florida are entitled to free examinations, which include gathering evidence, as well as being accompanied by a lawyer. To ensure a comprehensive response that includes wrap-around services, SANEs work with attorneys from the 31 Certified Sexual Assault Centers in Florida who provide ongoing confidential services.

In addition to a medical response, our work includes collecting evidence.

Communities that use ANS are better prepared to deal with the health consequences of violence. Community care invites each of us to help foster supportive environments that promote the best possible response for survivors.

Next week is nationally recognized as Forensic Nursing Week. Now is the time to educate health professionals in trauma. You can amplify these messages in your community by:

· Promote your local sexual assault center.

· Talk about the need to improve health care services for survivors.

· Support survivors without putting the responsibility of care on their shoulders.

· Recognize nurses in your area who are involved in the health and safety of victims of sexual violence.

If you are a healthcare professional interested in taking SANE training, please visit the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence website at www.fcasv.org.

Compassionate care is an essential part of the holistic response to survivors. All survivors deserve care and support that respects their rights to self-determination and bodily autonomy.

Kris-Tena Albers is the Director of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Education and Sustainability Program at the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence in Tallahassee.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Point of View: Specialized nurses needed for aftermath of sexual assault.


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