Voices Lecture Series: Charmin White, SANE Nurse

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Wed, Nov 12, 2014
2:00pm - 3:00pm
Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom

For years, Charmin White helped guide victims of sexual assault through the medical and legal process as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) at Ben Taub, Lyndon B. Johnson General and Quentin Mease Community hospitals in Houston.

Charmin White
Charmin White
Now, White shares her skills with nursing students at Sam Houston State University School of Nursing and is addressing problems like sexual violence. Using evidence-based models of practice, White will define the problem, identify risk and protective factors, discuss prevention strategies and offer several ways to attempt widespread adoption using awareness, education and training. The goal said White is “to stop sexual violence before it begins.” She will be discussing the role of SANE nurses and the Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) in communities as part of the Voices Lecture Series.

“The needs are phenomenal because of the epidemic proportion of cases first responders and health care providers are treating in this country that are impacted by sexual violence,” said White.

A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is a registered nurse who provides comprehensive care and attends to the medical-legal needs of victims and their families as well as the perpetrators of crime, violence and abuse. The nurse collects forensic evidence and may provide expert testimony as well as education to juries.

Photo of nurse comforting a young woman in the hospital.Sexual violence can and does occur at any stage in the life process and is the number one underreported crimes in our society, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, White said. According to research, one in four women and one in 6.1 men will be the victims of a sexual assault during their college careers. Forensic Nurses also provide best practice to victims of child abuse, elder abuse and intimate partner violence, White said.

Many victims of sexual violence wind up in emergency rooms in hospitals across the country, which may or may not have Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) that may consist of SANE nurses, physicians, psychiatrists, law enforcement agencies, social workers, child life specialists, hospital chaplains, and patient advocates. According to the literature, with accurate evidence collection and more prosecutions, more sexual assault felons will be incarcerated thus reducing the opportunity for offending against more victims, therefore making for a healthier community. The message that a survivor receives when a SANE program is developed is: Sexual assault is a problem for the entire community, not just victims and local sexual assault programs.

Members of a SART Teams may include doctors, SANE nurses, advocates, social workers, law enforcement officers and chaplains.The mental health and physical well-being of sexual assault victims are important to the community. Support for professionals to receive special training to learn how to collect forensic evidence properly is important to community leaders to ensure a higher conviction rate of sex offenders. In addition, support is provided to ensure a SANE Program continues.

Victims have medical and legal rights and once they make the “initial outcry.” These rights begin with medical screening by a physician and the right to a specially-trained victim advocate. The victim has the right to evidence collection by a trained healthcare team at no cost to them to include prophylaxis for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. It also includes the right to a victim’s advocate for safety planning and assistance in completing a Crime Victims Compensation application for submission.

A stethescope on law books.“Often, these victims need time,” said White. “If we have the evidence in safe storage and the integrity is not broken, we have a better chance to hold the perpetrator accountable when the time comes. Because sexual violence often leaves the victim feeling shameful and embarrassed with overwhelming feelings of guilt, the crime can go unreported and thus leaving perpetrators to go on to re-victimize.”

“As a SANE nurse, you attend to the medical and legal needs of the victim and their families, and the perpetrators of crime and abuse,” said White.

Nurse holding hands with a patient.In Texas, SANE nurses are trained and certified by the state Office of Attorney General or the International Association of Forensic Nurses, with certification in adult, adolescent and/or pediatric cases. Plans are expected for SHSU to provide a full course preparation for Adult/Adolescent and/or Pediatric SANE courses in 2015 at Sam Houston State University, which will include 40 hours of classroom instruction, 24 hours of clinical practice in an OB/GYN office, and 16 hours observing felony sexual assault court cases. “In addition to SANE nurses, other career opportunities available to serve victims of sexual violence include death investigators, forensic scientists, correctional care, social workers and mental health professionals.

For more information about sexual assault on college campuses, visit www.notalone.gov.

Member of The Texas State University System