April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The month is dedicated to raising public awareness about sexual assault and educating communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Waverly Health Center (WHC) has resources available to anyone who has experienced a sexual assault.
WHC has two sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE). A SANE is a registered nurse who has completed additional education and training to provide special care to survivors of sexual assault. When a patient experiences sexual assault and reports to the hospital, the SANE is called to work with the patient to gather medical history and the history and details of the assault. This information helps provide the patient with care options. These options may include forensic evidence collection, testing and treatment or prevention of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy prevention. SANEs can also testify in a criminal or civil trial as a fact or expert witness when necessary.
Unfortunately, there are many common myths associated with sexual assault. To help raise awareness, read the questions and answers below regarding common myths.
Questions: If I go to the hospital for treatment following a sexual assault, do I have to report it to law enforcement?
Answer: No, you do not have to report a sexual assault to the police just because you are seeking treatment. A sexual assault nurse examiner will go over options with you. There are certain cases like child or dependent adult abuse or abuse by someone in a position of authority, for example, that are required to be reported. If you do not fall into these categories, law enforcement does not have to be contacted.
Question: If I go to the emergency department after a sexual assault, will I be tested for sexually transmitted infections?
Answer: Rather than testing patients for sexually transmitted infections, patients will be treated for them automatically.
Question: I was drinking alcohol and wearing a short skirt. I was too frightened to say no. Is it my fault?
Answer: Sexual assault survivors are never responsible for the attack. People of both sexes, all ages, professions and styles of dress have become victims of sexual assaults. The responsibility of the attack lies with the perpetrator; the survivor is never responsible for the assailant's behavior.
Question: What if no one believes me?
Answer: The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that 92-98% of reported sexual assaults are true. Victims are encouraged to seek medical care after an assault so that they can receive the support they need to heal. WHC's emergecy department is open around the clock and doctors and nurses can provide pregnancy prophylaxis and sexually transmitted infection treatment. DNA evidence can be collected up to five days after a sexual assault.
Bailey Krull, BSN, RN, SANE
Nurse Trauma Coordinator, Waverly Health Center