Sexual assault victims program expands to meet growing need

Sexual assault victims program expands to meet growing need

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – MUSC is expanding and adding new technology to a program to help sexual assault victims. When a sexual assault victim comes to the hospital, a "SANE" or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is trained to help with: a physical assessment, medical treatment, medication to prevent infection or pregnancy, their emotional state, gathering evidence, and pressing charges if they choose

"While it is difficult, it is something that has to be done. There have to be nurses who can do it," SANE Nancy Hall said.

The SANE program has a private treatment room, three full time nurses and six on call. Now more nurses are training to handle the growing need.

In 2010, the program saw 50 patients. In 2011, there were 103 patients. So far this year, there have been 102.

In addition to more nurses, the program is adding new technology, which will help victims who want to press charges against their attacker. A forensic camera and system will help document any injuries to a patient's body, and the pictures will be placed into an evidence collection kit. This system is a $35,000 investment, which several local law enforcement agencies have committed to supporting.

"This is the gateway to the criminal justice system. This forensic aspect of what they're doing with the SANE program is vital," solicitor Scarlett Wilson said.

Wilson says eventually it will help with prosecution and put offenders behind bars.

For the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, it's a tough job, but they want to help.

"Regardless of how the patients come in, how emotional they are, when they leave, we know they feel better. They relay that to us. They say thank you for helping me. Thank you for being there," Hall said.

The Charleston County Sheriff's Office and the cities of Charleston and North Charleston have all chipped in to buy the forensic camera.

Sexual assault victims are seen for free at MUSC. MUSC started the SANE program in 2010, it was paid for with state and federal grant money and by the hospital. Private donors have provided clothing and other items for patients.

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