Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner– SANE

It was 1989 at Women and Infants hospital. I was a counselor-advocate for a woman seeking emergency care after a rape. She told me she had been abducted by two men who talked about killing her. She managed to run away and hide in the woods. She was grateful to be alive.

We waited for hours in the busy emergency room. Triage demands that the most emergent patients be seen first, and a rape exam is low on the list.

Finally the doctor arrived. She rushed into the room and stared at my client coldly. ‘Is this the woman who was supposedly raped?’

I was shocked, but kept silent so that the doctor could do the exam and leave, and this exhausted woman could finally go home.

This woman was in pain, with wounds physical and emotional. No one wants to be her, no one wants to be in that place. I’ve often wondered whether the doctor’s contemptuous manner covered a fear that any woman, even she herself, could be a victim.

I volunteered for two years with the Rape Crisis Center, (now Day One), and quickly lost the illusion that women are the more nurturing sex. In fact, the doctor, police officer, or nurse you want is the one with respect and compassion. That person can be male or female. Women might be more empathetic in general, but that’s no help when you run into a woman like that doctor. There were many other doctors both male and female who were kind and professional. It’s character, not gender.

This summer Day One held a class for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). Nurses who complete the program take call to respond to an emergency room when needed. This spares victims a long wait and frees the emergency room doctors from having to take out time from other urgent needs. SANE nurses have a much better record of collecting evidence, documenting, and offering antibiotics and the ‘morning after’ pill to protect against sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy. The evidence collected from the rape exam can be crucial if a case goes to trial. DNA evidence can help to convict the guilty or exonerate the innocent.

The SANE program is not cheap. Emergency room services and trained professionals are needed. In Rhode Island State Crime Victim Compensation Program will pay the costs so that victims are not billed for their care.

This will remove a barrier to women, children, and men who are victims of sexual assault and need emergency care. Day One, formerly the Rhode Island Rape Crisis Center, can be reached at 421-4100. The Victims of Crime Helpline can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-494-8100.

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4 responses

  1. No one who is sexually assaulted should be victimized twice.I can’t believe the demeanor of the doctor you described was typical,but even if it were an aberration,it was one too many.
    Some people won’t ever recover from the experience.Others will.For someone on the cusp,supportive early intervention might make the difference,and unfortunately the opposite is probably true also.

  2. I agree. Rhode Island is one of the last states to start a SANE program, but when it gets going there will be more help available for crime victims, and emergency room staff won’t have to deal with the legalities and the time it takes.

  3. That doctor should be run out of there profession for treating any kind of patients whether or not it is in the emergency room or elsewhere in the hospital. she has no bedside manner and shows no compassion for the injured or victim. I would have told her to get out and get another doctor and files complaint against her for her attitude. I go to the VA Hospital here in Providence and we had a Doctor kicked out of there because of his attitude every time one had to see him. He acted like he was doing you a
    big favor to see you.

  4. Craig-I am also a patient at the Providence VA.I had a run in with a really miserable doctor in 1993.He was not treating me for anything(thank God),but doing a disability evaluation on the removal of my spleen due to Agent Orange related lymphoma.I wrote a letter to the DAV service officer and I never had to see that jerk of a doctor again(my disability was approved)and hopefully no else had to because he was unprofessional and actually ignorant regarding the form of lymphoma.I couldn’t believe he was actually an oncologist because he was 180 degrees off from the oncologists who had successfully treated me in 1981.
    That being said,I have since developed other complications from Agent Orange and am 50%,so I get all my care through the VA.With the single exception of that idiot,I have received nothing but the best care and attitude from the medical personnel at the VA both here and in West Roxbury.For the last year I have been dealing with recurrent cancer(not AO related)and have had three elective and one emergency surgeries connected with it.I found the nursing staff in the regular wards and in ICU,where I spent close to a week last November to be aces.The surgeon who has been treating me and the residents have been the best also.I have written twice to the hospital director to compliment members of the staff.I believe in letting them know when people routinely seem to go the extra mile to help you.
    I hope you are doing okay Craig.

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