I have a different perspective with SANE exams than what people might think, and I’ll tell you why. First, you may be curious to know what SANE and SAFE mean. SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, and SAFE stands for Sexual Assault Forensic Exam. A SANE is a qualification for forensic nurses who have received specific training to conduct sexual assault evidentiary exams for rape victim/survivors. Most SANEs are on-call 24-hours a day and may arrive at the hospital emergency room within an hour of a sexual assault patient’s arrival. A SAFE exam is usually performed (with consent) on a person after they have been sexually assaulted. The purpose of this exam is to collect evidence, check for injuries and other health-related concerns, document and treat any injuries, prevent any STIs (sexually transmitted infections), and to prevent any unwanted pregnancies resulting from the sexual assault. SAFE exams are typically free for those who have been sexually assaulted. In many cases, the county in which the assault took place will cover the charge of the exam and any medications provided that day.
I had the opportunity to become a sexual assault call-out advocate with a non-profit organization called Committee Against Domestic Abuse (CADA). CADA is a 24-hour shelter that provides services for women and children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse. I interned with them for a semester during college then volunteered with them for about a year afterward. While I was a sexual assault call-out advocate, I had to do a 40-hour training to help prepare me for working with different populations. I spent two weekends in training but I gained so much information. My role as a call-out advocate was mainly to provide support and comfort to the victim/survivors. When someone would call the shelter and request an advocate to come, there would be volunteer-advocates on-call such as myself. We would meet the victim/survivor at a designated location such as the hospital or the college campus. There were certain questions we would ask them, and we always made sure to get their name and a number for them. It’s important for the call-out advocates or one of the staff at the shelter to check back in with the person who had been assaulted two days later. As call-out advocates, we also help get more resources to them, such as aid in getting a restraining or order for protection. Safety and confidentiality is also very important as call-out advocates. In cases where the survivor’s safety is a concern, we can ask the local police for to escort them home. We also help them make safety plans.
Being a victim of sexual assault myself, taking the training was pretty emotional for me. It was almost like picking a scab off a wound, but I knew I wanted to help other victim/survivors. I wanted other people to know that they had support and weren’t alone. I thought being a call-out advocate would give me a new purpose in life. It helped me find some healing in my own experiences and find growth in myself. While helping others, I was able to help myself and not let my assault define me.
If you want to learn more about hospital advocacy and other services provided by agencies, give a listen to Episode 28 of our podcast, More To The Story. We breakdown these services and many more in detail to really give an understanding of what services are provided to those who need it. Listen at avfti.org/podcast or anywhere you find podcasts.