A bill YWCA Stepping Stones staff have advocated for has been signed into law. HB5245 requires hospitals have SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) Nurses available within 90 minutes of a survivor of sexual assault presenting at the emergency room (ER) for an evidence collection kit. The bill also mandates hospitals meet this requirement no later than January 1, 2022.
Back in April, Jen Golliday, Cinnamon Porter, and I met with our state representatives to encourage them to support and co-sponsor this bill. In our meeting with Representative Dan Brady, he committed to co-sponsoring the bill and two weeks later he officially signed on as a co-sponsor. This month (August), we spent time reaching out to Governor Bruce Rauner to encourage him to sign HB5245. On Friday, August 10, 2018, he did just that! Read the Chicago Tribune story here.
As advocates who are available to survivors at the ER during this process, we know what a huge deal it is to have SANE nurses present during these exams. We have worked with amazing SANE nurses at both OSF St. Joseph Medical Center and Advocate BroMenn. SANE-trained nurses are not only educated in how to administer the kit to survivors but also how to provide survivor-centered care following such a traumatic event. Research shows the most important thing to a survivor’s healing process is how their initial disclosure is handled. Meaning that if the disclosure is handled poorly, the recovery process is often more difficult. If the disclosure is handled with care and in a survivor-centered way, the healing process can go much smoother. Often times, nurses at the hospital are the first people to hear about the assault and their response can make all the difference.
Research also shows that clients who receive compassionate and appropriate care at the time of the exam are more likely to cooperate with law enforcement and prosecution in the future. Part of that compassionate and appropriate care is the role of the YWCA Stepping Stones advocate, but much of this responsibility falls to the nurse conducting the kit during the ER visit. It is important we are giving our ER nurses the skills and resources needed to provide the best possible care.
When working with survivors, we often hear from them how helpful their nurse in the emergency room was and we have witnessed this first hand. We are excited to see our legislators recognize the importance of SANE nurses and the vital care they provide our clients and survivors of sexual assault.
Gabe Cripe is director of community outreach with YWCA Stepping Stones and has been with the program since fall, 2015. Prior to being on staff, Gabe volunteered with Stepping Stones answering crisis calls and providing medical advocacy through the 24/7 hotline. For more information about YWCA Stepping Stones, please visit our website.