BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — A special team from Crisis Services is on standby 24/7 for nine area hospitals to provide full support to victims of sexual assault.
“There are sexual assault nurses in almost every hospital in Erie County,” noted Holly Franz, manager, Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Program, Crisis Services.
When a sexual assault victim arrives at many of our local emergency rooms, a Sexual Assault Nurse Forensic Evaluation team from Crisis Services is ready to help.
“We’re trying to understand from them — so we can examine them and make sure they are as healthy as possible,” Franz explained.
The team is skilled nurses who are called in by the hospital to work side-by-side with the hospital's ER team.
“When these patients come in they've gone through quite an ordeal — they're afraid and so just being there to help support them, and make them feel safe,” Lori Dufresne, director of emergency services, Catholic Health.
The sexual assault nursing team from Crisis Services assists at nine Catholic Health and Kaleida Health hospitals.
“Our care is all patient-focused — patient-centered. It is about them and what it is they want,” Franz remarked. “I would say to anybody who's been assaulted — please come to the hospital, so we can help take care of you.”
Part of the teams' job is to comfort the sexual assault survivors traumatized by their experience, as nurses work to offer medical care and collect evidence.
The sexual assault kit contains 15-steps for collecting evidence, supplied during the examinations.
“The evidence is collected from someone's head, from their hair, someone's mouth — all parts of their body that they have been touched by the assailant,” Franz described.
Dufresne works closely with the Crisis Services team at Catholic Health.
She tells 7 News they always stress that confidentially is most important in the ER when treating the victims and providing private rooms.
“We just want people to know that Catholic Health has a safe place for these sexual assault victims and an ER team that is ready to take care of them,” Dufresne responded.
But not all sexual assault victims are willing to supply evidence.
Franz says unfortunately some victims blame themselves and feel too guilty.
“It is very typical for us for a little while before a patient even makes the decision on whether or not they are going to get evidence collected — ‘well maybe I don't need to do this kit’ — ‘maybe I did something wrong' — 'maybe I should have screamed louder’ — ‘maybe I should have not gone to that party and stayed there without my girlfriends”, Franz explained.
The experts say sexual assault can happen to anyone of all ages including children and victims are not just females.
“It does happen to men and there's not a difference in the way we communicate with and work with a male patient,” replied Franz.
Crisis Services says it answered 142-calls to hospitals last year. 18-survivors said no to offering evidence.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, a time to help raise awareness and educate communities.
Help is always available for you 24/7.
You can call Crisis Services in Erie County at 716-834-3131 or in Niagara County at 716-285-3515.
You can also reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline 24 hours a day at 1-800-656-4673.