By Carra Higgins
Nurses from six local counties received specialized training last week to help individuals who have been the victim of sexual assault or abuse.
A collaborative effort of several organizations and individuals enabled 20 nurses and three advocates from Raleigh, Fayette, Summers, Greenbrier, McDowell and Kanawha counties to attend a 40-hour training course for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner - Adult. The training wound down with the SANE nurses taking turns testifying in a mock courtroom session.
Afterward, Philip Morrison, director of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Institute, said he thinks each one is prepared to give testimony during an sexual assault/abuse trial.
The better prepared prosecutors and their witnesses are, the more likely it is to get a conviction, which in turn, enables community members to have faith in the legal system, Morrison added.
SANEs are specially trained to receive victims of sexual assault with the compassion necessary to assist them and to perform the required forensic exam that could lead to prosecution of the perpetrator. A SANE nurse could make the difference between a positive outcome for the victim or a further devastating experience.
Currently, there is only one SANE-certified nurse in the eight-county area of Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas, Summers, McDowell, Wyoming, Mercer and Greenbrier.
“Sex assault and abuse are highly underreported and underprosecuted crimes,” said Dee Sizemore, Women’s Resource Center public relations and fundraising development coordinator.
“The stigma that goes along with reporting and going to ERs where there aren’t staff trained to deal with forensic evidence or with how to be empathetic to the victim lead to further victimization and contribute to greater underreporting.”
The training was made possible in part by West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services, Women’s Resource Center and the Raleigh County Sexual Assault Team working together with the help of University of Charleston - Beckley, Beckley Area Foundation, West Virginia Women’s Commission, The Kyle Group, Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital, Women of First Presbyterian Church and other private donors.