April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month
April 12, 2023
April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM), 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), over half of women and almost 1 in 3 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 known to the victim.
Seeking Medical Attention
For survivors of sexual assault who seek medical attention, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital currently has 13 nurses who are either trained or in training as sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) to provide care and assistance.
Amy Taylor Signore, DNP, MSN, BS, RN, SANE-A/PA SANE, is SANE-trained and conducts examinations at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. While this type of nursing can be extremely difficult physically and emotionally, she knows this role is so important to have available in the area.
“The sexual assault survivor faces lifelong consequences that can be detrimental to their physical, emotional and fiscal well-being,” she explained. “At St. Elizabeth’s, we have a team of thirteen highly trained and compassionate SANEs that respond to the needs of sexual assault survivors. We strive to provide sexual assault survivors with the initial care and resources that will aide in their healing process and prevent some of those long-term consequences that come from a sexual assault. As a SANE-A (certification focused on the adolescent and adult population), I would like there not to be a need for my profession anymore,” she said. “However, until that day arrives, we will continue to raise awareness and be there for you whenever you need us.”
Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is an opportunity to talk about how everyone has a part in bringing attention to this important issue. Signore continued, “It should never be the sole responsibility of the survivor to bring awareness to the subject. Every member of the community has a role to play in this fight against sexual assault. I also encourage community leaders to bring awareness to their community through educational programs and by supporting their rape crisis centers.”
According to RAINN, remembering the acronym “TALK” can help you show support anyone who has been sexually assaulted:
- Thank Them for Telling You: Just having the courage to disclose the trauma is a huge step for the victim. Take the time to recognize that.
- Ask How You Can Help: Although you may want to give advice, allow them the choice to tell you how you can help them. They may not know what support they need, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask.
- Listen Without Judgment. Give them your undivided attention and focus on their feelings, not yours. It’s normal to have reactions like anger or shock when someone you care about shares an experience of sexual violence, but sometimes reactions like those can deter a survivor from sharing.
- Keep Supporting. Healing takes time, and survivors need ongoing support and love. Make sure you are reaching out to them to initiate activities they enjoy but avoid putting pressure on them to engage in activities they aren’t ready to do yet.
For more resources to support victims of assault, visit rainn.org/TALK.
The National Sexual Assault Telephone hotline, a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center, is 800-656-HOPE (4673) or you can access the online chat service at: online.rainn.org.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
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