One in six. That’s how many women in the U.S. are sexually assaulted, according to statistics. In fact, every 98 seconds in the US. there’s another victim of sexual assault, and one in 10 of them are male.
How about one in three, and one in four? That’s how many women and men, respectively, are victims of intimate partner violence.
What if each and every one had a specially-trained ally in the emergency department or the hospital? That’s the revelation behind CHI Health’s SANE program. SANE stands for sexual assault nurse examiner. These nurses are specially trained in crisis intervention, and provide:
- Injury detection and treatment
- Health care pertaining to sexual assaults (sexually transmitted infection screening, pregnancy testing, emergency contraception)
- Forensic medical evidence collection
- Domestic violence crisis intervention
- Testimony in judicial proceedings
- Community resource connection
Numerous studies have shown that patients have better outcomes when seen by a SANE nurse as opposed to emergency room personnel. As a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault years ago, before programs like this were available, I know firsthand how important and life changing these services are for healing — and how not having them can be devastating for the victim and family members.
In the brief amount of time spent with patients, SANE nurses have the ability to change lives. In one case, the SANE nurse identified more severe injuries on forensic examination and alerted the physician and law enforcement for re-evaluation. Identifying the injury benefited the patient both physically and emotionally. This one case also offered valuable education and insight to the physician, law enforcement, and others providing care as well as to the patient.
An important part of the SANE program is collaboration with community advocates, law enforcement, crime laboratories, the judicial system, members of the health system, and members of the community to provide a trauma-focused approach to care. This ensures the patient receives the necessary treatment and resources needed for recovery without revictimization/re-traumatization.
Thanks to the SANE program, a specially trained forensic nurse is available for these patients. The program has expanded throughout the Omaha/Council Bluffs metropolitan area as well as Grand Island. CHI Health in Omaha now has five emergency departments where victims can be seen for sexual assault, domestic violence, and/or human trafficking. SANE nurses also respond to inpatient and outpatients units throughout the health system as necessary. This ensures that every victim has the opportunity to receive the collaborative efforts necessary for healing.
As a SANE nurse, knowing at the end of the day or at the end of case that I have made a difference in someone’s life is very rewarding. Being able to serve someone who has been or is currently going through this type of devastating trauma allows me to provide a moment of comfort, safety and empathy in order to help them begin the crucial first steps of the healing process. I also get the benefit of knowing that the services provided may help to reduce violence within the community.
Living Our Mission
Research links exposure to violence to chronic disease, mental health issues and lower quality of life, plus increased risk of continuing the cycle of violence and disease. Catholic Health Initiatives is committed to reducing violence in all of its communities by 2020.
With the SANE program, CHI Health is living its mission by furthering the goal to reduce violence in our region. SANE seeks to reduce the physical and psychological trauma of sexual assault, human trafficking and domestic violence through sensitive and timely forensic medical examinations of victims performed by specially trained nurse examiners and through collaboration with community response teams and the judicial process.
Cases handled by the CHI Health SANE program more than tripled during the first half of fiscal year 2017.
- 38 total cases in fiscal year 2016
- 166 total cases in fiscal year 2017
CHI Health’s SANE program seeks to expand the reach of our domestic violence and sexual assault program through increased awareness and education within the community to reach those in need and most vulnerable. We also hope to add elder abuse to our list of services provided in 2018.