Empowering a Journey of Healing and Hope

Every two minutes somewhere in America, a woman is raped. Sexual abuse is common. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will experience rape. Only 34% of sexual assaults are reported to the police. That means 2 out of 3 cases go unreported.

Though sexual abuse is a traumatic and life-altering experience, recovery is possible. The possibility of empowering victims on a journey of healing and hope set off a course of events that led Park Ridge Health to create a new care point through SANE training for nurses. SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, specially trained RNs who provide, sometimes the first, care to victims.

"These first encounters for a victim are critical to their healing process," said Tanya Blackford, Executive Director of Safelight, which provides hope and healing for victims of interpersonal violence, sexual assault and child abuse in Henderson County. Tanya reached out to PRH Foundation Director, Sherri Holbert and PRH Communication Director, Victoria Dunkle to share this need. They immediately understood the importance of Emergency Room Advocacy for these victims and set a plan into motion for Park Ridge Health to meet this need.

When Park Ridge Health's Emergency Department and Nursing Leadership shared this training opportunity, Amy Burrell, RN and Chelsea Fowler, RN were the first to sign up. They are now the Clinical Leads of the SANE Program at Park Ridge Health. The training includes case study reviews, guidelines for the care of victims and step-by-step education on collection of evidence for eventual prosecution of perpetrators.

This program would not be possible without help from The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. Park Ridge Health was awarded $70,000 from the Women for Women Grants Program and The Women's Fund. Both programs are part of The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and demonstrate how passionate The Community Foundation is about improving the quality of life for women and girls in Western North Carolina.

This grant funding has helped establish a Henderson County Sexual Assault Response Team that includes partnering with The Free Clinics and Safelight to certify health professionals as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs). Other partners include the Henderson County Sheriff's Department, Hendersonville Police Department, Laurel Park Police Department, Fletcher Police Department, the District Attorney's Office, DSS and Henderson County Public Schools. Funding has also assisted in helping to create policies and procedures for responding to sexual assaults, tailor and equip exam rooms to treat and de-stress victims and to promote the new system locally.

This article was originally published in Park Ridge Health's Annual Report.