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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month: How Mount Nittany Health Cares for Survivors of Sexual Assault

3 min read

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month – a time when the nation calls attention to the unfortunate fact that sexual violence is widespread and impacts individuals in all communities.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that over half of women and almost one in three men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact in their lifetimes. This equates to millions of people in the United States each year.

At Mount Nittany Health, we are committed to caring for survivors of sexual assault in our community and providing education and resources to prevent sexual violence from occurring. We understand the lifelong physical and emotional effects that can accompany an act of sexual violence and have developed an extensive program to provide the most compassionate, comprehensive care possible for these patients.

All registered nurses (RNs) in the Emergency Department at Mount Nittany Medical Center are trained as sexual assault forensic examiner (SAFE) nurses, which requires a 40-hour didactic course where they learn about documentation, forensic evidence collection, chain of custody, court, consent, and how to perform exams and care for patients. A SAFE nurse is always available at the Medical Center to provide specialized care to patients in need.

One such nurse is Nicki Olson, RN, BSN, SANE-A, Emergency Department, Mount Nittany Medical Center. Nikki is a leader of Mount Nittany Health’s sexual assault program and a sexual assault nurse of 23 years. She has been teaching the SAFE course at the Medical Center since 2012 and became a certified sexual assault nurse examiner for adults (SANE-A) in 2016. This entailed extensive training including 300 hours of relevant practice before completing the SANE-A certification exam.

Nicki and the team of SAFE nurses care for patients collaboratively alongside local law enforcement, Centre Safe, and the domestic violence taskforce committee. This combined effort ensures that victims will only have to tell their story one time.

“In everything we do, we are compassionate and careful to ensure that no additional trauma is experienced by our patients,” said Nicki. “Although we can’t undo what they’ve been through, we can help the healing process to begin.”

The sexual assault program also receives support from Cor-a in the form of patient care packages. Cor-a is a nonprofit social justice initiative providing the opportunity to support female victims of sexual assault through anticipatory care and art therapy concepts with the hope of restoring dignity to victims.

When a patient’s belongings must be collected as evidence, care packages from Cor-a provide them with never-worn undergarments, new clothing, and personal care items. According to Cor-a, these items are to help women regain their dignity as they walk out of the hospital and return to their lives post-trauma.

During the month of April, please join us in recognizing Nicki, our commendable team of SAFE nurses, as well as the organizations that work alongside them and support them for the comprehensive care they provide for survivors of sexual assault.

If you or someone you know has experienced dating or domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Please call Centre Safe at 814.234.5050 or toll-free at 1.877.234.5050.