People who regularly work with sexual assault victims have long recognized that victims are often re-traumatized when they come to emergency rooms for medical care and evidence collection.
Victims have not only had to endure long waits and road trips to be examined, but those performing the exams often lack the advanced training in working with sexual assault victims and evidence gathering protocol.
About two years ago, Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr approached Dr. Jacque Kemmerer, APRN, DNP, about the need to have local forensic examinations and victim care following sexual assaults.
Carr said that sexual assault victims were being transported to Hays or Great Bend for treatment and forensic examination. Several hours on the road plus several more being poked, prodded, and questioned in an exam room was a less than ideal environment for victims who were already stressed, frightened, and confused.
"We had a real shortage of certified examiners within the area which was causing some constraints," Carr said. "We want to make sure we safeguard and aid these victims. I just wondered what we could do to make this better in our community."
Carr and Kemmerer each sat on the boards of Dodge City Crisis Center and Meadowlark House so they shared a common goal of helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
With that goal in mind, Kemmerer petitioned the Pratt Regional Medical Center to provide funds to equip registered nurses in SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) procedures. The Southwest Kansas Community Foundation also provided funding for a forensic camera. The PRMC clinic in Dodge City began offering SANE services in October.
SANE is a program for registered nurses to receive specialized training so that they can provide comprehensive care to sexual assault victims.
SANE-trained nurses can give a positive first impression of official responses to victims, increasing the likelihood that they will cooperate with investigators and prosecutors.
Evidence is gathered properly and more efficiently - improving the quality and consistency. The nurses are trained to provide meticulously collected forensics and extensive documentation to complement crime scene evidence and witness statements.
PRMC began its forensic examination services in October and Kemmerer and her staff maintain a 24-hour on-call availability for both the Dodge City Police Department and the Ford County Sheriff’s Office.
Kemmerer said part of the mission now is spreading the word that local service is available so victims are not dissuaded from reporting or undergoing examination.
“We not only do the exams but we are trained to reach out to all the resources available,” kemmerer said. “Dodge City has a lot of great community resources for victims and our police department has people who work just with the victims of domestic violence."
Carr said that previously there was a critical shortage of certified examiners causing difficult constraints for his department and victims. He said that a full team of SANEs helps nail down cases and encourage victims to come forward.
"It absolutely helps us look out for the interests of the victims in these matters," Carr said. "It’s not the best situation to have to take someone out of their environment and transport them two hours away.
"When you’re a victim having to make the report itself is difficult enough."
Kemmerer said that when her nurses perform examinations they always have advocates from the crisis center or the Meadowlark House on hand.
We make sure that we follow up concerning emotional support or mental health referrals.
Kemmerer said that sexual assault victims often require follow-up care due to infections and sexually transmitted diseases cropping up well after the assault.
Kemmerer and other nurses from Pratt began the SANE training in 2016. Kemmerer also initiated a SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) group to further assist victims also conducts monthly meetings. The group consists of nurses as well as representatives from the Ford County Sheriff’s Office, the Dodge City Police Department, social workers, and advocates from the crisis center and Meadowlark house.
"We try to consider what more we could do to reach out to victims with this," Kemmerer said. "Our crisis center already does quite a bit of education on domestic violence and sexual assault."
Sexual assaults examination and victim care are typically not profitable endeavors so Kemmerer was uncertain as to whether she could gain funding for a new program and the required equipment. She said Pratt Regional Medical Center officials were not hesitant to fund such a critical need for the community.
“They basically said ‘whatever you need’ to serve the needs of this community,” kemmerer said.
Monday Kemmerer spoke during the Rotary Club Luncheon concerning sexual assault and sex trafficking.
Kemmerer is set to speak for the United Way Leaders at The Learning Center Wednesday afternoon.
Kemmerer said she is working closely with Western Plains Medical Complex to get their program off the ground. So far there is one SANE trained nurse at WPMC.
The Pratt Regional Medical Center clinic is located at 1206 W. Frontview Street.
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