A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Sexual assault support and your health: 3 things to know

Woman talking to sexual assault advocate

Sexual assault resource teams support survivors and connect them with community resources.

Rape or sexual assault occurs when someone does not freely give approval to engage in sexual activity. Sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of what the person is wearing, age or gender. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, one in three women and one in 33 men report experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime.

Sexual assault support available

If you have experienced sexual violence many areas of your life are impacted, including health, relationships, work and finances. Sexual assault response teams (SARTs) are a network of professionals who help survivors navigate and connect to available community resources.

These response teams include professionals from law enforcement, health care, legal services and victim advocacy. They offer confidential support 24/7. The team helps survivors connect with services like counselling, legal advocacy and long-term support.

Seek medical attention

Specially-trained nurses in the sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) program are at Marshfield Clinic Health System hospitals and many emergency departments across country to provide sexual assault support services.

SANE nurses will care for you by treating any injuries and help you review your next steps. They can evaluate pregnancy risk, screen for and provide preventive treatment for sexually transmitted infections. In addition, they document survivor’s injuries, collect forensic evidence and provide testimony in court.

If the survivor chooses to report an assault, SANE nurses can contact law enforcement. They will support whatever decision the survivor makes. If an assault occurred with a child, reporting is mandatory. SANE nurses will refer survivors to medical and counselling services for support and follow up care. All services are provided in a confidential manner. “We’re able to provide many of our services – the exam, evidence collection and some medical services at no cost to our patients,” said Genevieve Kane, sexual assault nurse examiner at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “A state fund, called the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam fund, can often cover the majority of charges.”

Steps toward healing and recovery

Another part of the SART team are sexual assault victim advocates. These trained professionals provide free and confidential services. They help survivors find safe shelter, provide 24-hour crisis services and counselling support. Advocates can help obtain a restraining order and provide support during legal actions.  They advocate and support survivors during law enforcement interviews, depositions, which is a process of giving sworn evidence, and court proceedings.

If you are a survivor of sexual violence, you can find help at Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network at www.rainn.org or call the national sexual assault telephone hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

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