Push to train more Vermont nurses to help victims of sexual, domestic violence
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Victims of sexual or domestic violence may need more specialized care-- that’s the word from victims advocates. And Vermont has a special group of nurses trained to provide it.
They’re part of the SANE nursing program. SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, better know as forensic nurses. Every emergency department in the state has at least one on-call but program coordinators and advocates are hoping to expand the program.
Raenetta Liberty is the clinical coordinator for the Vermont Forensic Nursing Program. For the past 10 years, she’s helped survivors of sexual assault and partner violence.
“It’s not always necessary or comforting for a patient to walk into an emergency department and tell the triage nurse, ‘I was sexually assaulted,’” Liberty said.
Forensic nurses take photos of injuries, coordinate care with providers and connect survivors to resources.
“They get to decide how they want the exam to go, what they want to do with the care, how they want to report the event or to nobody,” Liberty said.
While survivors are at the emergency department, they get connected with a local advocate to help them once they leave.
“Since the COVID restrictions have been lifted, we’ve gotten a few calls a week where we respond,” said Catherine Ducasse, a victim advocate for HOPE Works.
Ducasse says the number of assaults in Vermont is similar to the national average. That’s 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men.
“It looks different for every survivor. It’s whatever they need at that time because the impact of trauma... every reaction is a normal reaction to every abnormal event. There’s no right way to heal,” Ducasse said.
Liberty says they use roughly 300-350 evidence collection kits per year involving sexual assault cases.
“Whether it’s a confidential... or an unreported or reported kit... regardless, it goes to the Vermont Forensic Lab and it is tested. Which is really unique for most states,” Liberty said.
To become a forensic nurse, RNs take a 40-hour course before completing a forensic exam simulation.
The next time the Vermont Forensic Nursing Program is offering this certification is in October.
Liberty says there are 25 nurses from all over the state already signed up but they hope to add more.
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