Avera Medical Minute: Sexual assault nurse examiners provide supportive care for patients

Published: Nov. 19, 2018 at 9:36 AM CST
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One in three women and one in six men will be a victim of sexual violence at some point in their lives.

But, Avera has a team of trained nurses inside the ER who will be there to help every step of the way.

"Studies have proven that patients that have been taken care of by SANE nurses have improved recovery, decreased consequences from the assault," Jennifer Canton, an emergency room nurse/ SANE nurse, said.

Jennifer has been a sexual assault nurse examiner or SANE nurse for almost six years.

"An RN that has received additional training in things like the neurobiology of trauma, trauma-informed care, the legal process and conducting a medical forensic exam," she said. "Which includes evidence collection, forensic photography and documentation of injuries."

Avera's ER offers around the clock care for victims that have been sexually assaulted. Something Michelle Markgraf, executive director of the Compass Center says happens too frequently.

"We see about 120-130 people each year in the ER who have come in for a sexual assault," she said. "So, fairly common, unfortunately."

"Assaults happen every day of the week, every hour of the day," Canton said. "So, it's important for us to be able to offer that specialized care, no matter when the patient presents to the ER when they're assaulted."

Avera and the Compass Center work together to give the patient the most supportive care possible.

"When they identify somebody who's been assaulted they call the Compass Center and ask for us, and we'll send an advocate over here to be with the person and explain what will happen and give them options," Markgraf said. "And give them what they want to have happen, and the advocates' job is to ensure that whatever that person wants is what actually happens."

"A person that has been sexually assaulted has just survived the most traumatizing experiences possible," Canton said. "And it's important that they come in and receive care, as soon as possible."

A victim who comes to the ER can remain anonymous; the most crucial step is receiving care.

"it's important they come in, we believe you, we support you, we will provide whatever care that is necessary to help you deal with what happened and get back to your normal life," Canton said.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the Crisis Helpline at 1-800-273-8255.

You can find more information on treatment for sexual assault at