Featured Story Written By Shelby Quintana
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an annual campaign designed to raise awareness of sexual assault and sexual harassment with the ultimate goal to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
At Ivinson Memorial Hospital (IMH), we work to preserve the dignity of victims of crime by offering comprehensive care and treatment through our forensic nursing program.
“Our goal in promoting Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to emphasize that IMH forensic nurses are available to help patients navigate the complex road after being victimized,” said Michela Telford, the forensic and SANE coordinator at Ivinson.
A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) is a registered nurse who has specialized education and clinical training in the care of victims of crime. “A 40-hour Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner for adults and adolescents is the initial education required to become a SANE, followed by a clinical skills training/orientation period,” said Michela. “After the initial training, forensic nurses at IMH complete a 40-hour Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner for Pediatrics course, a 26-hour Intimate Partner Violence Training and a 16-hour Trauma Nursing course.”
SANEs are trained to provide immediate crisis intervention and emotional support to victims while identifying physical trauma, injuries, collecting evidence and maintaining chain of custody. Additionally, SANEs collaborate with community agencies and provide testimony in a court of law in response to crime. “SANE nurses have an increased knowledge and training related to law enforcements and judicial proceedings,” said Michela. “We work closely with other community agencies who also respond to victims of violence such as: the SAFE Project, all law enforcement agencies within Albany County and surrounding areas, the University of Wyoming, the Department of Family Services and the Albany County Attorney.
Michela decided to become a SANE because she was intrigued by the level of autonomy and the specialized skill set required of these nurses. “Forensic nurses have an added degree of complexity to their role,” said Michela. “Not only are we responsible for addressing the immediate medical, physical and mental health needs of our patients, but there is a crime that has been committed and our patient is the crime scene.”
According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of unwanted sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Sexual assault takes many forms including forced sexual intercourse of any kind, inappropriate touching or fondling, child molestation, incest, rape, or attempted rape among several other acts. Regardless of what or how it happens, sexual assault is never the victim’s fault.
“Sexual assault, in my opinion, is one of the worst crimes that can be committed against another human being,” said Michela. “It can be dehumanizing and leaves a lasting impression on the victim- this is a traumatic event they will have to deal with the rest of their life.”
Forensic Nursing at Ivinson
The forensic nursing program at Ivinson includes seven nurses who provide care to potential victims of crime in the Laramie community 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Not only do we provide services to victims of sexual assault, but we serve victims of other violent acts such as intimate partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse, human trafficking, or kidnapping,” said Michela. “We also provide support services to those who witness violent crimes.”
Our forensic nurses ensure victims are not re-traumatized during their medical/forensic examinations by providing compassionate and sensitive care. They work to empower survivors by providing complete information and allow them to make informed decisions about the care they want to receive throughout the entire process. “My goal as a Forensic Nurse is to help my patients transition from being the victim of a horrendous crime to becoming a survivor who can continue to lead a whole and healthy life,” said Michela.
The SANEs at Ivinson Memorial Hospital serve victims of crime by providing a resource for immediate, compassionate and comprehensive medical/forensic examinations. “It is important for people to know that there are many resources in Albany County for help for victims of any sort of violence,” said Michela. If you or someone you know is the victim of a crime, please get help. Not only will this help your healing process, taking action could prevent it from happening to others.