JOPLIN, Mo. – Two-hundred and twenty female and male victims of sexual assault have been aided by Freeman Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program since its inception in 2009. Nearly one in five women – 18.3 percent of the US population – will be raped in her lifetime. In Missouri, estimates indicate 413,000 women have been sexually assaulted. Bringing awareness to this issue, and in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, Freeman SANE team encourages victims of sexual assault to report their attack to law enforcement, seek medical attention following an attack and to never forget that sexual assault is not the victim’s fault.
Freeman SANE program offers comprehensive and compassionate care at Freeman Hospital West Emergency Department to men and women who are victims of sexual assault. The program gives victims the choice to have evidence of the assault collected by a specially trained nurse. Advocates from Lafayette House, a local advocacy center, provide support and can help arrange for emergency shelter, if needed.
“We must reject victim blaming and the idea that it is the victim's responsibility to prevent rape or sexual assault,” said Karen Scott, Freeman SANE Program Coordinator. “Sexual assault is a choice made by the perpetrator to commit a crime against the victim. Where the victim is, how the victim is dressed or whether or not the victim has been drinking has nothing to do with the fact that sex without full, sober, voluntary consent is sexual assault.”
Scott said in order to stop sexual assault, our society must address beliefs, attitudes, messages and social norms condoning sexual violence. It is important to promote healthy, respectful and equitable relationships. Parents should model relationships without violence, properly managing emotions such as anger and jealousy. It is equally important, Scott said, to recognize the connection between alcohol abuse and sexual violence.
Women who are raped are likely to experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One study reported that 94 percent of rape victims will experience PTSD symptoms during the first two weeks after the attack. Fifty percent will suffer from lifetime PTSD.
“To battle the disabling effects of rape, it is important to hold perpetrators accountable by encouraging victims to report the crime,” said John Ezell, Freeman Assistant Director of Emergency Trauma Services. “It is also important to understand why a victim might delay reporting such a crime. These victims could feel shame or embarrassment, even thinking the attack is their fault.”
If a person is sexually assaulted, Scott said the first action should be to find a safe place away from the attacker. To preserve evidence, Scott recommends against bathing or changing clothes. Victims are encouraged to report their attack to law enforcement by calling 911 and even write down details of the attack. Regardless of whether or not the attack is reported to the police, Scott said assault victims should seek medical attention for injury treatment, safety planning, advocacy services and to help determine the risk of infection or pregnancy.
Lastly, Scott said, rape or sexual assault victims should pursue help from a counselor or support group, if needed. “Healing takes time,” she said. “Know that it is never too late to ask for help, even years after an attack.”
About Freeman Health System
Locally owned and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System has earned a number of US News & World Report distinctions – Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri, #4 hospital in the state, and High Performing status in seven specialties. The health system includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital, and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. A not-for-profit health system, Freeman provides cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services, and women’s services and has more than 300 physicians on staff. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com or facebook.com/freemanhealthsystem or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at twitter.com/freemanceo.