Restoring hope: Methodist program provides comfort and care in the wake of sexual assault

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Three years ago this month, the fight against sexual assault got another weapon. Methodist Dallas Medical Center launched the second SANE program in Dallas County. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) offers around-the-clock, rapid-response services for sexual assault survivors ages 14 and older.

All care is supervised by a specially certified nurse, who sees the survivor in a dedicated private treatment area and remains with the survivor through discharge and follow up.

More than 300 Dallas residents have sought help from the SANE program since it launched in January 2014. It's a heartbreaking statistic - but also an inspirational one. Without the SANE program, these survivors of sexual assault would have one fewer reason - and one fewer resource - for hope and healing.

Program coordinator Courtney Brewer, RN, CA-SANE, says the nurses and doctors treat survivors with dignity, care for their injuries, and after evidence is collected, offer a shower and fresh clothes. She talks to them about choices and next steps so that by the time survivors walk out, they've transitioned from someone who was down to a person with a head held high. Survivors are immediately referred to community organizations that can provide counseling, shelter, or financial services.

An important aspect of the SANE examination is the option for survivors to share the details of their assault, go through the evidence collection process, and report to law enforcement. In one case, a forensic exam was performed while emergency room doctors fought to save the life of a victim who sustained a gunshot wound during the attack. Not all survivors will seek or receive justice - but that doesn't mean they can't take back control of their lives.

Some survivors come back to thank the SANE staff for helping them when they were feeling their worst. That's what this program is about: helping victims take back their control and their power. Our nurses and doctors give them hope that this terrible thing that's happened isn't going to define them forever.

Methodist Health System Foundation is working to cover medical care costs for survivors of sexual assault. To lend your support, visit Foundation.MethodistHealthSystem.org/Give. To learn more about the program, visit MethodistHealthSystem.org/SANE-Program.