April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and I would like to invite you to join the UVM Medical Center’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) in working to change the culture of violence.
This year’s theme is “Engaging New Voices.” It builds on the idea that we are stronger together and that by working with community members we can address the root causes and cultures that allow sexual violence to exist. Everyone’s efforts can have an impact on those with whom we work, care for, teach, and influence. As a community, we have an opportunity to change the culture and prevent sexual violence.
Sexual assault is a serious public health issue. Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 72 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lives. The next time you are in a room with more than five people chances are that at least one individual is a survivor of sexual assault. Sexual violence affects women, men, children, families, and communities. The short-term side effects of sexual assault are pain, guilt, fear, shock, and a feeling of isolation. Long-term effects can be health risks, PTSD, depression, pregnancy, STI, HIV, and suicide.
The UVM Medical Center community is fortunate to have 15 specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). Our SANEs provide patient-centered, trauma-informed care to more than 150 women, men, and children who have been sexually or physically assaulted each year. SANEs collaborate with law enforcement (Chittenden County Unit of Special Investigators), community advocate Hope Works (rape crisis center), and STEPs (Steps to end domestic abuse), the Vermont Forensic Lab, and the judicial system. These community members work together to provide the support and care to victims of sexual assault and to change the culture of violence.
Sexual violence can be prevented when we all work together to change beliefs.
As a community, we can start by:
- Believing. Believe survivors of sexual assault when they share their story.
- Stop victim blaming. What someone was wearing, where they were, who they were with, is not a factor in whether someone is sexually assaulted. No one deserves to be sexually or physically assaulted.
- Speak up. When you hear RAPE jokes. They are never funny.
- Consent. Treat others with respect by respecting boundaries
- Intervene. If you witness sexual violence, say something.
As a parent, you can start by:
- Modeling healthy behavior. Hitting or coercion are never ok.
- Talk. Talk to your children about healthy relationships and the importance of CONSENT (a person who is in an altered state cannot consent).
We can all use our voices to change the culture and prevent sexual violence.
Get engaged this April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month by joining our community partner Hope Works in spreading awareness.
Raenetta Liberty, RN, BSN, has been a nurse for 24 years. During that time she has served as an emergency nurse and sexual assault nurse examiner. She is the SANE/forensic nurse coordinator for Vermont State and the UVM Medical Center.