Aspirus SANE Program: Providing compassionate care for adolescents and adult sexual assault victims
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.
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 compassionate 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 Amy Riegert, Registered Nurse and SANE Coordinator with Aspirus Health. “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 Emergency Department (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 including genitalia, complete an evidence collection kit, offer risk assessment for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and coordinate care with a sexual assault advocate.
Riegert assures that the patient is always in control.
“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 Riegert. “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 provide assistance. 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 kit that will be shipped directly to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab, where Riegert says it will be held for up to ten years for them to decide if they would like to report of not.
If the patient would like to track their kit through the chain of custody from law enforcement to crime lab, the nurse can provide information at this time.
Aspirus SANE Programs expand across the system, with services currently available at six 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. Riegert 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.”
Support for survivors of sexual assault is available. To contact Aspirus SANE in your area, call:
Aspirus Wausau Hospital: 715-847-2121
Howard Young Medical Center: 715-356-8000
Aspirus Rhinelander Hospital: 715-361-2000
Aspirus Riverview Hospital: 715-423-6060
Aspirus Stevens Point Hospital: 715-346-5000
Aspirus Ironwood Hospital: 906-932-2525
To speak with someone anonymously, the following 24/7 free confidential hotlines are available:
RAINN: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Women’s Community Sexual Assault Victim Services: 715-842-7323 or 1-888-665-1234