Victims of sexual assault will be a little safer now in our community, thanks to the efforts of their local health care facility. Divine Savior Healthcare has made a commitment to the SANE Program, a program that ensures sexual assault victims are confidentially cared for in a dignified way. Through this program, victims have access to medical professionals who are trained to treat them with dignity and respect, while gathering important evidence that will help prosecute their assailant should they chose to.
When a victim comes to Divine Savior Healthcare’s Emergency Department, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) will collect valuable forensic evidence. This evidence may help prosecute the assailant, if the victim chooses to do so — at that time or in the future.
Divine Savior Healthcare’s SANE professionals are trained and have received special certification to properly evaluate and treat victims of sexual assault. Care is given without interruption, so the chain of evidence is maintained. Preventive treatment can be prescribed for situations that arise from assault, like sexually transmitted infections. No matter the level of care needed, the assault is not reported to the police by the nurse or the hospital without consent.
“Our role here is not to judge,” says Haley Gilman, Communications Specialist. “It’s to make sure members of our community will feel safe enough to come to us for care if they should ever be involved in a sexual assault.”
Abby Swan, Emergency Room Director and SANE Program Coordinator, hopes to assure victims that confidential care is available and medical records are kept private after the incident.
“Even to turn over their medical records to the police or district attorney’s office, the patient has to sign a consent form,” Swan tells us. “We can’t just hand that information to anybody. It’s always completely confidential.”
Once the exam has been completed, the forensic evidence is sent to the crime lab regardless of whether the victim chooses to report it right away. This evidence will then be available if and when the victim chooses.
Cost is another factor that can deter uninsured victims from seeking treatment. Swan also helps to connect victims to financial assistance through the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Fund. This state-run fund can cover the costs of the SANE exam.
At times, victims don’t have a primary care doctor for routine care. For those who need follow-up care, Divine Savior Healthcare’s SANE Program has a designated physician, Dr. Jill Pogorelec, who will see patients confidentially in a clinical setting.
“We like to make sure that they have that follow-up,” Dr. Pogorelec says. “To make sure that they’re taking their medications and that they’re getting any mental health issues addressed at the appropriate places.”
If the patient qualifies, the cost of follow-up care may also be covered by the Crime Victim Compensation Fund.
Divine Savior Healthcare is proud to offer the community the added peace of mind which accompanies a program such as SANE. It is an honor to work together with the team of local authorities, Hope House of South Central Wisconsin and the District Attorney’s office to make our community a safe place to live and work. Together, we can lessen the impact of sexual assault on our communities.
For more information, contact Divine Savior Healthcare at (608) 742-4131.
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