Nellis nurses to become certified sexual-assault examiners

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Julie Parker
  • Nellis Air Force Base Public Affairs
For many, sexual assault is more than a statistic, it’s a reality. 

Sexual assault destroys the victims’ trust and leaves them feeling helpless and isolated, said 2nd Lt. Tiffany Reich, 99th Medical Group clinical emergency room nurse at Mike O’Callaghan Federal Hospital. 

As part of the Air Force’s revised sexual-assault prevention guidelines, released March 2005, Nellis has teamed up with the city of Las Vegas to help victims of sexual assault. 

Lieutenant Reich and 1st Lt. Pamela Banks, a 99th Medical Group staff nurse at MOFH, are in the process of becoming certified sexual-assault nurse examiners through Rose Heart Incorporated and the University Medical Center. The two nurses are Nellis Victim Advocates, and it was the base hospital that sent them to training in support of the Sexual Assault Prevention Response program. 

According to a clinical study conducted by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, “In the past, sexual-assault victims encountered significant difficulties seeking post health care and medical forensic evidence collection. 

“Numerous studies have found less than half of survivors treated in hospital emergency departments receive basic services, such as information about the risk of pregnancy and the information on the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.” 

The report suggests, “It was not uncommon for survivors to wait up to 10 hours for the examination to be performed. “During this wait, victims were not allowed to eat, drink or urinate so as not to destroy physical evidence of the assault." 

Further complicating matters, emergency department personnel often lacked training in medical forensic evidence collection. 

“Research suggested many victims characterize their interactions with hospital emergency department staff as upsetting and distressing, often characterizing their experience as being ‘re-raped.’” 

The SANE program was created to address these problems. Specially trained forensic nurses provide 24-hours-a-day, first-response care to sexual-assault patients. The SANE course involves 40 hours of intensive classroom training, followed by 40 more hours of clinical work, said Lieutenant Banks. 

The training focuses on the collection and protection of physical evidence, as well as how to conduct a sexual-assault examination to reduce further trauma to the victim by reducing the number of people the victim must encounter during the examination. 

Sexual assault-victims will not be seen at the base hospital to further preserve the victim’s anonymity, said Lieutenant Reich. 

Rather, they will be sent to University Medical Center where they will be met by a Sexual Assault Response Team made up of three components: a nurse examiner, an advocate and law enforcement, added Lieutenant Banks. 

Together, the team works with the same goal: to expedite care to the victim and to prevent her from feeling further victimized. 

Both nurses expressed how important they think it is that victims of sexual assault come forward and report the incident. 

In most incidences, the offender is someone the victim knows, said Lieutenant Banks. 

“Rape is not always violent, and most sexual predators are repeat offenders,” added Lieutenant Reich. “Reporting the incident may prevent others from being assaulted.” 

According to the Air Force, sexual assault is defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. . . Consent shall not be deemed or construed to mean the failure by the victim to offer physical resistance. Consent is not given when a person uses force, threat of force, coercion or when the victim is asleep, incapacitated, or unconscious.

The Air Force’s sexual-assault prevention policy is designed to alleviate the fears a victim may have about reporting the incident, Lieutenant Banks said. 

To report an assault, call the 24-hour sexual assault reporting line at 652-7272.