Source: The News-Enterprise, April 12, 2021
The local hospital’s on-call Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program started in 2016. Five years later, the program, now known as SANE/Forensics, continues to help victims of sexual assault or abuse.
Baptist Health Hardin is one of 14 hospitals in Kentucky that are SANE ready, BHH RN and SANE program manager Sarah Tovar said. The hospital also is one of 12 in the state listed with the International Association of Forensic Nurses.
At the hospital, Tovar said they use a two-person team response, noting she does not know any other program with that approach in the state.
“We have two nurses that respond to all of our victims of violence and provide care,” she said.
In 2019, Tovar said they saw 167 patients. By comparison, two years prior, she said they were seeing about 30 to 50 patients.
In 2020, the number of patients increased to 290. For the first quarter of 2021, she said they already have seen 104 patients, which projects to 416 for the year.
Tovar said the increasing numbers are, in part, related to the program’s expanded services to encompass domestic violence, child abuse and more. She said what they do would not be possible without the advocacy of the HMH Foundation.
Kayla Dailey, sexual assault survivor and owner of Kentucky Strength Farm in Elizabethtown, who volunteered several years for Silverleaf Sexual Trauma Recovery Services as a hospital response advocate and now sits on Silverleaf’s board of directors, called the SANE/Forensics program an “amazing service.”
Dailey’s own experience with sexual assault happened when she was younger. She did not get help from Silverleaf until a couple years later when she was 16 or 17. Later, she volunteered.
“Part of my healing was helping other people,” she said.
As a volunteer for Silverleaf, Dailey’s job was to be there specifically for the survivor.
“I was not there for the doctor. I was not there for the nurse. I was not there for the police officer, if (a victim) decided to report it. I was there to walk the victim through the legal process, explain to them what was going to happen,” she said.
Prior to the SANE/Forensics program, Dailey said the person treating the victim would be whatever emergency room doctor was on call that night.
“They’re great doctors, but they were not trained in having compassion or helping somebody who had just been through something. Somebody that has been through an emotional trauma that they weren’t prepared for. So, having the SANE program was huge when they got it,” Dailey said.
The BHH SANE/Forensics team comprises 17 people, including a program manager, clinical care coordinator, outreach coordinator, and 14 certified SANEs who provide a continuum of patient care, from forensic exams proven to aid in the prosecution of perpetrators, to vital follow-up services long after the initial exam.
“Every single victim of violence that comes through and is seen by our SANE forensic team is offered a follow-up visit,” she said. “We follow them through until they are completely healed. Any victim of violence. That is a piece of what we are doing and moving forward to do.”
The local SANE/Forensics’ follow-up compliance rate is at a little more than 60 percent, Tovar said. She said they want compliance so they can follow the injury, as well as provide a safety plan every time they see the patient.
“It gives another opportunity to touch base with this patient and make sure that they are safe and connect them with resources that they may need or may not have received the first time,” she said.
Compared to when she first volunteered with Silverleaf in 2013, Dailey touted Tovar and what she had done with the SANE/Forensics program at the hospital.
When it comes to sexual assault, Dailey said the program is crucial to every aspect of it.
“The SANE program is full circle, one of the most powerful programs, I think, for any type of sexual assault,” she said.
Tovar said the community is just beginning to realize BHH has a SANE/Forensics program and all that now entails. She said they are putting effort into reaching out to child protective services and local schools, and they also have partnered with Silverleaf in Elizabethtown.
“We are not nearly as known as I feel like we should be, but it’s a little better than it was,” she said.
Sexual assault is a large problem that is very under reported, Tovar said.
“It’s currently about 63 percent under reported, and we know in Kentucky that one in four women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime,” Tovar said. “The biggest thing I want to get out is that we are here.”
Though they do have some patients referred to them by law enforcement, Tovar said the majority of their patients walk in through the ER.
In general, in all the services they provide, Tovar said it is a very sensitive subject and people often can feel ashamed or embarrassed about what happened. It’s hard to come forward and it’s hard to seek care, she said.
Tovar said there is no judgment at BHH – patients are “met with compassion and care and provided with the services and referrals they need.”
Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1417 or firstname.lastname@example.org.