Sexual assault nurse examiners in place throughout region

Diane Crocker
Published on February 27, 2013

CORNER BROOK  Melissa Martin is hoping to demystify some of the thoughts surrounding sexual assault and to inform victims of a service now available in this region.

Martin is a registered nurse in the emergency department at Western Memorial Regional Hospital. She’s also one of 20 nurses, all females, within Western Health who have been trained as sexual assault nurse examiners. The group includes 18 registered nurses and two nurse practitioners. Ten of them are located at Western Memorial and the rest are located at other facilities within the health authority.

On Tuesday night, Martin took a step towards educating the public about the service by speaking at a community discussion hosted by the Corner Brook Status of Women Council at the Corner Brook Women’s Centre.

The theme of the night was Sexual Assault: Services to Help. Const. Bev Bursey of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was also present to talk about the prevalence of sexual assault in the region and about the services police provide.

Prior to the event Martin said that while incidents of sexual assault victims presenting at the emergency department are not regular by any means, helping them is something that takes specialized training.

“We know that it happens and the biggest part is that people just don’t report it and that’s a real shame,” said Martin.

“So we’re trying to get the word out there that we’re there, we are a specialized group of people who are trained to do this in a professional and confidential manner,” she said. “Hopefully knowing that more people would be willing to report.”

 Martin chose to do the training because it was something that always interested her on a nursing level.

“Just the opportunity to help other women get through a difficult situation was important to me,” she said.

She said the service is entirely voluntary and the victims can either contact the police or present on their own at the hospital. Either way the exam is treated in a timely manner.

Once at the hospital victims are taken to a private room set up for sexual assault examinations.

“The nursing would basically be one to one,” said Martin. “So once the sexual assault nurse examiner was with that patient they would not leave and there would be minimal interaction with other staff members.”

 The nurse assigned will collect and handle their personal information in a confidential manner.

“The other thing is to collect forensic evidence if they choose to take a legal stand with their assailant.” Martin said this includes the collection of clothing, tissue and blood samples.

“Upon discharge we would take care of any medical needs that they had,” said Martin. “Treat them for any medical injuries they have. We would also be able to treat them with prophylactic medication for sexually transmitted diseases as well as emergency contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancy.”

Martin said the nurse examiners are also the “gateway” to counselling services for the victims. She said they can either set them up with counselling or provide them with the information about the services that are available in the region.

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