Help is available at HSHS St. Elizabeth's Hospital for those who have experienced sexual assault.
April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is sharing important information about this critical issue.
Sexual assault is any sexual contact that is forced or is against a person's wishes. It is a crime of violence that has a profound impact on lifelong health, opportunity and well-being.
This type of assault can happen to anyone, of any age or gender. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes.
Sexual assault often happens in a trusting relationship. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 8 out of 10 assaults are committed by someone who knows the victim.
What do you do if someone you care about tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted? According to RAINN, consider the following ways to show support:
- Listen. Communicate without judgment.
- Be there. If the survivor seeks medical attention or plans to report, offer to be there. Your presence can offer the support they need.
- Offer Support. Encourage the survivor to get support. Share resources like the National Sexual Assault Hotline or RAINN but realize that only they can make the decision to get help.
- Be patient. Remember, there is no timetable for recovering from trauma. Avoid putting pressure on them to engage in activities they aren’t ready to do yet.
- Encourage self-care. Following an assault, it is important to practice good physical and emotional self-care during this difficult time.
Seeking Medical Attention
For survivors of sexual assault who seek medical attention, HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital has nurses who are trained as sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) to provide care and assistance for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. The nurses help men and women of all ages and are available 24/7.
Amy Taylor Signore, MSN, BS, RN, SANE-A, PA SANE, from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is a SANE-trained nurse and conducts examinations at the hospital. While this type of nursing can be extremely difficult physically and emotionally as nurse examiners come alongside traumatized victims, Signore knows this role is so important to have available in the area.
“Having nurses who are specially trained to exam those who have been sexually assaulted is valuable for the person who has been assaulted not only in the moment of the exam, but also years down the road,” she explained. “Studies have shown that in the long-term, having a SANE-led exam has immense benefits for the victim. It helps limit experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS), and also helps prevent chronic problems with abdominal pain or sexual dysfunction,” she said. “Additionally, with a SANE-led exam, more victims tend to report the crime and conviction rates are higher.”
For those who have been sexually assaulted, there is help. The following resources are available:
- Call for Help, Inc., located at 9400 Lebanon Road, East St. Louis, has a 24/7 sexual assault crisis line at 618-397-0975.
- S.A.F.E. (Sexual Assault and Family Emergencies) has a 24-hour sexual assault hotline at 1-800-625-1414. They serve Bond, Clay, Clinton, Effingham, Fayette, Hamilton, Jefferson, Marion, Washington, Wayne and White counties.
- RAINN organizes the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline, a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center. You can call the hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or access RAINN’s online chat service at online.rainn.org.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.