Coordinated Community Response: Door County Teams Up to Combat Sexual Violence

by DANA STUEBER, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Team Leader

SANE is an acronym for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – an area of nursing that most people have not even heard of. At St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, it means a 24/7/365 commitment to care for individuals who are reporting sexual violence. 

We currently have 14 nurses who take a secondary nurse’s role in the hospital. When someone presents to the hospital and discloses sexual violence, a SANE is called in. At the same time, an advocate from the Sexual Assault Center is also called to ensure that the patient is cared for medically and physically, and to provide additional support resources.

Our role as nurses is to provide trauma-informed care to our patients and to return power and control to them in how they want their care to proceed. We are able to offer a head-to-toe assessment to determine whether there is injury and to document it if it’s present. DNA can be collected and preserved in a Wisconsin Crime Lab Sexual Assault Kit.

Medications are offered to prevent infections. Urine and/or blood can be collected to further identify possible injury, to identify potential drugs in the system that would have facilitated the assault, and to check for pregnancy. 

We can help facilitate the law-enforcement response if it has not already started. We offer care and resources and abide by the decision a victim makes about how to proceed.

A medical examination is only one part of the care a person needs to navigate something as horrendous as sexual assault. We are so very fortunate in Door County to have a SART – a Sexual Assault Response Team – that values each member of the team and the part they have in helping a victim recover. 

With the creation of the SART, this community has decided that these victims matter and deserve care that shows empathy about what has happened, as well as understanding that reporting the crime is already a huge victory for the victim. Sexual assault as a crime is widely underreported, and perpetrators use this to their advantage to continue the devastation.

Thank you, Door County, for saying, “No more! Not in our community!” Thank you for teaming up against sexual violence.

Registered nurse Dana Stueber and the St. Vincent Hospital Green Bay Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program are members of the Door County Coordinated Community Response Team. The SANE program comprises registered nurses whose focus is on providing care to patients who report sexual assault or sexual violence, and providing resources to help them heal.