St. Joe’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Program cares for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. Team leader Michelle Markie (RN, SAFE-A-ME) says 2018 has been busy year for her team of SAFE Nurses.
Last year St. Joe’s SAFE Nurses completed 69 forensic exams. They estimated in 2018 that 100 patients in need of a SAFE Nurse would come to St. Joe’s. The numbers, however, have been much higher: as of December 10, they had seen 152 patients.
Michelle explains that rates of sexual assault are not growing, but more people are coming forward to seek treatment — a sign that St. Joe’s SAFE outreach is working. Outreach includes spending time with community organizations, advising on how to respond sensitively to incidents of sexual assault and sharing resources on what support is available to victims. This year, St. Joe’s SAFE Nurses trained Resident Advisors at University of Maine’s Orono Campus, travelled state-wide to train Police Departments on strangulation injuries, and presented at a conference for Public Housing Directors from throughout New England.
The SAFE team are also constantly learning so they can provide the best and most appropriate care to their patients. Two more ED Nurses have trained as SAFE nurses and will be fully certified by March 2019. This will mean five SAFE Nurses will be able to share the 24/7 on-call responsibility, on top of their usual full-time ED shifts.
All five nurses completed a workshop on forensic photography, which is an important element of evidence, should a patient wish to move forward with a legal case. SAFE nurses are often called to provide expert witness testimony in court.
Generous response to our SAFE Nurse appeal earlier this year has helped fund crucial outreach programs, training of additional SAFE Nurses and allow the purchase of a new camera and lighting for evidence collection. Thank you!