A team of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (S.A.N.E) helps provide a network of support for patients who land in the hospital with signs of physical or sexual assault.
Ann Carpenter is one of these nurses.
Ann’s Role: Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
Her role includes the physical examination and medical evidence collection. She is also there “to meet people where they are.” She uses language that resonates with them and shares information that helps them understand and communicate what has happened to them.
Too often, she says, women – and men — will say, “‘but I didn’t say no,’ or, ‘I didn’t fight back.’ We are here to teach them that just because they didn’t do these things – it doesn’t mean that somehow it is their fault.”
Relieving patients of this guilt, Carpenter teaches her patients about trauma paralysis, which affects many victims of assault. She also helps them understand the effects of trauma on memory, and how this can impact the way they talk to law enforcement.
“It’s important for patients to understand that, after a trauma, patients remember the events in a non-linear fashion,” she says. “This is normal.”
A lot of this work comes out of emerging research. That’s one of the aspects of her work that Carpenter enjoys the most. “It’s a fascinating field,” she says. “Being able to help people using the latest information is very rewarding.”
Community organizations like HopeWorks are an important part of this process, and Ann and her S.A.N.E. colleagues make those connections while the patient is here. A HopeWorks advocate sits with the patient throughout the examination and is available as a community resource for the patient upon release.
“Recovery from sexual and physical assault can take a long time,” says Carpenter. “It’s important to make sure that these patients have the support they need after they leave the hospital,”
Sexual Assault in the United States
- Every 98, seconds someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
- Rape is the most under-reported crime.
- 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college.
- 64% of transgendered people will experience sexual assaults in their lifetimes.