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.

1 2018 SANE dept photo 1

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.”

Sexual Assault

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.