BANGOR – For victims of sexual assault, finding resources can seem intimidating.
“We are trained to assess the patient head to toe, we are trained in what medications to give them, and we work with an advocate and can also testify as an expert or fact witness in the court room,” explained Michelle Markie, a SAFE nurse at St. Joseph Hospital.
St. Joseph Hospital has five SAFE nurses specially trained to work with victims of assault and domestic violence.
“They’re extremely important to have because they have specialized training for documentation and have the skill of being able to talk with these patients and get them to open up,” said Lisa Lambert, the hospital’s director of emergency services.
Markie said that about one in four women over the age of 18 will be experience some type of sexual violence.
“Last year we saw 160 patients at St. Joe’s,” Markie said. “The year before, I believe we saw 69, so the number increased. But we also do a lot of outreach so people know they can come here for care.”
She emphasized this is patient-driven care and what you want to do is up to you.
For example, they can help you file a police report, but you aren’t required to.
“Not all hospitals have sexual assault forensic examiners. I think it’s important for people to know where those nurses are in their community,” Markie said. “Around the state, there’s 40 certified nurses in the state of Maine“
SAFE nurses also connect patients with advocates to help develop a safety plan once they leave.