Sexual Assault Awarness Month: What is a SANE?

By Kristy Bleizeffer Apr 3, 2017

WMC's SANEs are Becky Fleming, Tara Legler, Nikki Nicholson, Cyndi Duncan, Kerri Moyd and Nichole St Clai.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the SANEs at Wyoming Medical Center hope to educate our community on how to prevent sexual violence.

SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, a nurse with specialized training in treating suspected victims of sexual abuse. Many times, a SANE is a victim’s first contact with an authority figure after such a traumatic event, and the evidence they may collect can be essential for bringing criminal charges against a perpetrator.

Wyoming Medical Center has six SANEs, each with 40 hours of special training in adult victims of sexual assault and with 40 hours in pediatric victims. They are Cynthia Duncan, Nichole St. Clair, Nikki Nicholson, Kerri Moyd, Tara Legler and Becky Fleming.

In the interview below, Fleming tells about the work of a SANE and how they are recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

What does a SANE do?

A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is first, and most importantly, a registered nurse. Our main priority is always to the patient. We do a medical assessment to ensure the patient is medically stable, and we treat any injury that may need addressed before a sexual assault exam can be done safely.

A SANE is also trained to collect biological evidence and document findings. She (or he) is trained to identify normal findings versus acute and chronic injury. She can help with options, follow-up care and set up counseling after a sexual assault has occurred.

Why is their work so important?

A nurse has years of education in anatomy, physiology, medication administration, treatment of injuries and multiple disease processes. Nurses have a passion for caring for one’s body and mind. A SANE has the ability to assess the physical and psychological needs of patients in addition to evidence collection. A SANE is able to educate the patient, family, law enforcement, juries and the public about what happens to the body during and after an assault. They can also help the patient understand what to expect in the days and weeks ahead and where to seek help.

Every SANE has their own reasons for  following this path. Some are survivors of an assault, some know a survivor. Others are intrigued by forensic science. It's a personal decision for every SANE; it's not an easy job. But ultimately, nurses, regardless of the special training they've received, just want to help people.

Explain the Start By Believing campaign.

Start By Believing is a global campaign geared towards changing the culture around sexual assault.

Top: Whites Mountain Motors has spelled "We Believe" with blue cups in their fence to recognize the Start by Believing campaign. Bottom: SANEs bought 13 pairs of women's shoes and will borrow several more from Kim's closet for the Take a Walk in Her Shoes event on April 8.

Many victims feel their own guilt about an assault. When they reach for help, many victims are forced to defend themselves again. They are faced with questions like: What were you wearing? How much did you have to drink? Did you send mixed signals?  Victims can face implications that the attack was somehow their fault or that they were “asking for it” with their behavior.

Start By Believing challenges that thinking. The campaign asks people to simply believe the person telling them they were raped. People are much more likely to report to law enforcement and stop the cycle of silence if the first person they tell believes them. That doesn't mean that due process is thrown out. A non-bias investigation will still be done. But it sends a message to victims that we want you to come forward. We want you to start to heal, and we don't think that anybody asks for this to happen to them.  

How is Wyoming Medical Center participating in Start By Believing?

We have placed pledge posters throughout the hospital in most of the departments. We are asking staff to sign the pledge that they will “start by believing.” We want to show our community that WMC believes in change and believes our patients when they tell us they've been raped or sexually assaulted.

We will also have a table at an event with the Casper Police Department recognizing its volunteer advocates for National Crime Victim’s Rights Week on April 5. We’ll be showing off all the signatures by WMC staff on the believing pledges.

Tell us about the Walk in her Shoes event on Saturday.

On April 8, WMC and Casper Police Victims Services are inviting men to take a “walk in her shoes” to help end sexual assault. We have provided several stylish women’s shoes for the guys to strut their stuff in. More importantly we have gathered several of Casper’s amazing programs in one place to provide information about their organization, give links to Casper resources and what we can do to help a victim become a survivor.

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