High-profile cases have made it clear that sexual assaults are more common than many of us may have assumed. We’re no longer “safe” to assume that if we haven’t heard more about them, they’re simply not happening. On the flip side, victims of sexual assault may now be more empowered to come forward earlier. Some may get themselves to the emergency room, or call the police as a first step. Because of the expectation of both relative anonymity and shorter wait times, some may turn to urgent care, however, begging the question: Would you be ready to provide the right care in the moment, considering the patient’s age, gender, life circumstances…? Your preparedness is not only essential to the patient’s wellbeing, but could also affect any criminal case that could follow. OhioHealth has created a program called SARNCO (Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio), which dispatches specially trained nurses and social workers to EDs to assure that exams are conducted with attention to the patient’s trauma and prospective legal proceedings. If you don’t happen to be in central Ohio or know of a similar effort in your vicinity, it’s incumbent on you to make sure your staff knows what to do when patients present as victims of sexual assault. Seek out rape and sex-assault crisis centers; invite social workers or law enforcement to conduct in-services. The optimal time to help such patients is the time they choose to present; that is also the moment when the rubber meets the road in terms of providing the care patients need when they need it.
Are You Prepared to Care for Victims of Sexual Assault? You Should Be