The Sexist

Local Hospital Starts New Program for Sexual Assault Victims

The Washington Hospital Center is piloting a new program for treating women who are victims of sexual assault. The "SANE program," or "Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners," will provide "survivors of sexual violence immediate access to a private room where one of 11 specially trained nurses will collect forensic evidence." Sounds good to me.

Fox D.C. creepily frames the initiative by saying it will "preserve a woman's dignity and collect the necessary evidence." I'm unclear as to how and where most hospitals treat victims of sexual violence, but private rooms and professional medical personnel sound like they should be standard procedure to me. You should be placed in a private room with a professional anytime a medic is inspecting your genitals. Language about "preserving a woman's dignity" makes these common-sense medical necessities seem like amenities to help women cope with their shame.

  • CO

    Unfortunately that is not how sexual assault victims are always treated in DC, and many women in DC don't know their rights when it comes to rape kits. I recommend checking out this website for the Younger Women's Task Force "Stand Up for DC Women" project, which has resources on the subject:

  • Dad

    When I was a pediatric resident at Children's Hospital, my ER shifts all too frequently included treating girls/young women who had been sexually assaulted. While I was 'competent' to perform exams and complete a rape kit, and while the ER facilities were 'adequate', I'm certain these victims would've been better served if we always had SANE nurses available (some nights we did, some nights we didn't - resources). The idea is to maintain a comprehensive program, where skilled, specialized practitioners are always available to conduct exams in a more private, controlled, and dignified setting. Anything less potentially compounds the trauma (especially in younger victims).

  • Amanda Hess

    I absolutely agree the SANE program sounds great for women. I just think the idea of "preserving a woman's dignity" is condescending as it makes medical necessities seem like emotional extras.

  • Dad

    Yeah, I see what you're saying. I think privacy is vital to preservation of dignity. We used a specific exam room in the ER because the table could be converted into a recumbent GYN table with stirrups. This stationary table faced the front of the room. The entire facade of the room, like all the exam rooms, was a large glass sliding door. Privacy was provided by a curtain drawn between the patient and the glass. In addition, like most ERs, it was very noisy (talking, laughing, cring, screaming), and you could hear people (staff, children, parents, etc.) passing within inches of the sliding door. Given that these were pediatric victims, this was quite often their FIRST experience with a pelvic exam: in a loud, bustling ER, with genitals literally facing a precariously curtained sliding door while strangers passed by out front. Without a 24/7/365 SANE program, it was sometimes the best we could do. But I've often wondered how many girls we 'lost' doing this. People have been chased away from medical care by far less.