Health care providers are often the first responders for survivors of sexual assault. To ensure a rapid, effective, compassionate response, four members of MDI Hospital’s clinical staff have undergone specialized training to help victims cope with and overcome the physical and emotional toll of this crime.
Certified nurse midwife Linda Robinson, family nurse practitioner Angie Delvechio, and registered nurses Velynda Wiley and Vicky Eaton, all of whom work for MDI Hospital, have undergone rigorous training to become Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners, or SAFEs. To honor the importance to SAFEs statewide, Governor John Baldacci proclaimed the week of November 8th to the 12th Forensic Nurses Week.
“SAFEs are advocates for each patient, making sure they receive the best standard of care in each situation,” said ER nurse Vicky Eaton. “Each of us has been trained to provide comprehensive care for the sexual assault patient. We’re also trained to be an expert witness in court.”
Maine’s Attorney General’s office administers the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner program, providing training and technical assistance for health care providers in the care of patients who have suffered sexual assault. The program also provides training in the use of the Maine sex crimes kit for collection of evidence.
SAFEs are trained to perform medical forensic exams, minimize the patient’s waiting period to receive care and to collect evidence in a manner that meets state standards promoting successful prosecution. “We are also trained to provide compassionate care in an effort to reduce the trauma of sexual assault,” said Eaton.
The training includes 40 hours of classroom and 8 hours of clinical learning. There are additional requirements for state SAFE certification that can take up to a year.
Throughout the state SAFEs are part of regional networks of sexual assault responders, known as Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART). SART team members include local law enforcement, District Attorneys’ offices, SAFEs, and sexual assault advocates.
“We felt strongly the importance of providing local access to a coordinated, victim-centered response that emphasizes confidentiality and compassion,” said Eaton.