Sexual assault nurse examiners learn to document patient conditions, collect and package evidence, and how to testify in court.
Starting today, UW Medical Center's Emergency Department will offer comprehensive evaluation and treatment for victims of sexual assault.
The care will be provided by an on-call sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) who is specially trained to conduct a forensic examination, provide emergency contraception, and treat potential sexually transmitted infection.
"It’s really about wrapping patients in all the right care that they need at that moment," said SANE program coordinator Terri Stewart.
picture of SANE program director Terri Stewart
“Due to UW Medical Center’s proximity to the University of Washington campus, this is a much needed service. We as a department are proud to offer this service and glad that this will add expanded services to the general community,” said Sue Theiler, associate director for patient care services at hospital's Emergency Department.
The goal is to make the level of care consistent across all UW Medicine facilities and more accessible across the city, said Terri Stewart, SANE program coordinator.
On-call nurse examiners in the Seattle area – currently there are 22 – are trained at the Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress at Harborview Medical Center. In training, nurse examiners learn how to document patient conditions, collect and package evidence, and how to testify in court. Today, sexual-assault examinations are provided at Harborview, Valley Medical Center, Seattle Children's and Swedish Medical Center.
“People are more inclined to come forward about what happened if they’re treated by someone who understands all the psychosocial dynamics that occur with sexual assault, someone who can work with patients where they are at that moment in a sensitive way,” Stewart said.
Victims of sexual assault are encouraged to seek evaluation and treatment as soon as possible after the incident. They can receive care regardless of whether they choose to submit a police report. Forensic examination must be completed within five days of the event.
Sexual assault disproportionately affects women and is a pervasive national problem. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that nearly one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. Additionally, in a study of undergraduate women, 19% reported experiencing sexual assault since entering college.
Victims of sexual assault are more likely to suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse and to contemplate suicide.