Aspirus Rhinelander Hospital launches SANE program
For the Star Journal
RHINELANDER – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) reports that about 1.2 million Wisconsin adults have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime – that’s about one out of three adult women and almost one out of every five adult men.
Aspirus Rhinelander Hospital now offers direct local access to a SANE program in its Emergency Department (ED).
The experience of sexual assault is deeply devastating for patients and their loved ones. To help begin the healing process, the nurses of the Aspirus SANE Program provide care and treatment to patients who have been assaulted.
“SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, which is interchangeable with FNE or Forensic Nurse Examiner,” says Terra Schmoeger, Manager, Aspirus Rhinelander Hospital Emergency Department. “At Aspirus, we have a team of nurses with specialized training to perform medical and forensic examination for adolescents and adults who have been sexually assaulted or strangled.”
What happens during the exam
Aspirus SANE exams can be done up to 120 hours, or five days, after an assault. When patients report to an Aspirus ED where services are available, they are brought to a dedicated safe and private environment where the exam will take place. With permission, the nurse will ask the patient about the assault, perform a physical exam, complete an evidence collection kit, offer risk assessment for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and coordinate care with a sexual assault advocate. Patients will be offered and provided a sexual assault/domestic violence advocate from our Tri County Council, who will provide resources and service as an advocate for the patient for entirety of the exam.
“Our exams encompass trauma-informed care. A patient has been through a traumatic event and therefore we give them their autonomy back during this exam and allow them the opportunity to make choices for themselves,” says Lacy Santilli, RN, SANE Program, Aspirus Rhinelander Hospital. “Some of the choices they can make are about what services they want us to provide for them and then setting a pace that they’re comfortable with.”
The value of care
Care is important whether a patient chooses to report the assault to law enforcement or not.
If the patient wishes to report, the SANE nurse will help. Nurses are mandated to report sexual assaults of patients under 18 years old. If the patient is over 18 and unsure if they want to report the assault, the evidence collected during the exam will go into a kit that will be shipped directly to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab, where Schmoeger says it will be held for up to 10 years for them to decide if they would like to report.
If the patient would like to track their kit through the chain of custody from law enforcement to the crime lab, the nurse can provide information.
Aspirus SANE Programs have expanded across the system, with services currently now available at seven Aspirus hospitals. If someone has experienced sexual assault, they can go to one of the locations listed below or to their nearest ED to get set up with arrangements to travel to the nearest hospital that does perform forensic exams. Schmoeger adds that if a survivor is seeking care where SANE services aren’t available, “patients can still get the preventative care they need such as emergency contraception, as well as protection against STIs and HIV. These are available at any ED.”
“We are proud to add this important program in Rhinelander which excels in providing highly specialized clinical care in concert with the compassion needed under difficult circumstances,” said Teri Theiler, Aspirus North WI division president.
Support for survivors of sexual assault is available. To contact Aspirus SANE in the Rhinelander area, call Aspirus Rhinelander at 715-361-2000, or Howard Young Medical Center, 715-356-8000
To speak with someone anonymously, call Tri County Council at 800-236-1222, 24\7.