Helping sexual assault victims take a first step toward healing and justice

 

Too often stigmatized and seldom talked about, sexual assault is a serious, community health issue. Someone becomes a sexual assault victim every two minutes.*

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an opportunity to lift stigma’s cloud, recognize the needs of sexual assault victims and acknowledge our community’s responsibility to provide care and support.

For victims, this is the first step toward healing and justice,” said Stephanie Green, RN, MSN, who oversees the Southern Arizona Center against Sexual Assault (SACASA) forensic exam program. “There is a relief for victims knowing the exam will support prosecution. Victims want as much evidence as possible to show this was wrong and not invited.”

For more than 10 years, Tucson Medical Center has partnered with (SACASA) to complete a comprehensive forensic exam for victims of sexual assault and provide immediate care and resources – the only program of its kind in Southern Arizona.

At the TMC Emergency Department, there is a dedicated private space for sexual assault evaluation and treatment. SACASA provides certified sexual assault nurse examiners who work with physicians to treat, document and provide additional support and resources.

The quiet room is a dedicated private space, with soft lighting, and a calming space in our emergency department

“A victim’s needs are far more than physical,” Green said. “From necessities like food, clothing and safe shelter to complex needs like behavioral health-care, prescription fills and transportation to medical appointments – we can make immediate referrals to help victims at every level.”

For the care providers, it is more than a program. “It is our priority to provide the most advanced and compassionate care for sexual assault victims during the worst time in their lives,” said Cynthia Carsten, RN, MSN, the director of patient care services at the TMC Emergency Department.

A separate, dedicated quiet room

Green noted that sexual assault is a community health matter that affects us all – men and women, adults and children. “Stigma and avoidance will perpetuate the problem, hindering every victim’s recovery with unjust shame and fear.”

As a community member, we encourage you to learn more about sexual assault, have more open discussions about your knowledge and build empathy and understanding.

Green further explained that collective education and action are the answers. “It will take a community effort to prevent, and hopefully end, this community health problem.”

If you have been the immediate victim of sexual assault call 911. If you are a victim and seeking resources, contact SACASA at (520) 327-7273. Learn more about sexual assault at www.sacasa.org or call (520) 327-1171. SACASA is a division of CODAC.

Dine Out For Safety – support survivors of sexual violence by dining out on April 18 – participating restaurants will donate up to 20 percent of proceeds to support SACASA programs.

TMC honored by county attorney for support of victims of sexual assault, strangulation

National Victims' Rights Week

Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, right, thanks Judy Rich for TMC’s long-term commitment to victims of sexual assault and strangulation.

Tucson Medical Center and TMC President and CEO Judy Rich were recognized this week by Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Rich accepted an award on behalf of TMC for the hospital’s commitment to survivors of sexual assault and strangulation. TMC has partnered with the Pima County Attorney’s Office for nearly two decades to provide compassionate care to victims and to support the collection of evidence through forensic examinations.

TMC has a dedicated room–away from all the hustle and bustle off the main Emergency Department–fitted with special forensic equipment to gather evidence of rape and strangulation. In addition, victims receive medical, emotional and practical care as they begin the healing process.

Also recognized at the ceremony Tuesday night at Z Mansion downtown was Sharon Welch, a former TMC nurse, for her continued work with the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault as a forensic nurse examiner for strangulation victims, using a protocol developed, in part, by Stephanie Noriega, another honoree from Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse.

National Victims’ Rights Week recognizes that serving victims and rebuilding their trust, restores not only hope to survivors, but to the communities in which we all live.

“This evening we re-dedicate ourselves to serving victims, building trust and restoring hope for justice and healing,” LaWall said. “We dedicate ourselves to assisting victims so that they may find support, justice and peace.”

Jaimie Jill Leon-Guerrero was the Voice of Courage honoree for her dedication to public education and awareness of the devastating consequences of impaired driving. When Leon-Guerreo was a Tucson Fire Department emergency dispatcher, she dispatched  EMTs to the scene of a bicyclist fatally hit by a car only to discover later that the victim was her partner, Kris. Other honorees included Jason Frazier, Mothers Against Drunk Driving; Maria Garrick, Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center; and Carol Gaxiola, Homicide Survivors, Inc.

About 150 attended including Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos; representatives from Tucson, Pima Community College and University of Arizona police departments; and legal and nonprofit communities.

TMC and SACASA open center to provide crisis support

Tucson Medical Center and the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault(SACASA) have teamed up in a unique collaboration to create the ideal resource and support center for recent survivors of sexual assault.

TMC and SACASA have launched a support facility in the TMC Emergency Department that includes a dedicated medical forensic examination room, a quiet space for family and friends, and a separate EMS entrance for additional privacy.

The facility donated by TMC will provide the first step of medical support for recent survivors, and SACASA staff will be on hand to provide emotional support services and conduct medical forensic exams. Both agencies understand how important it is to respond immediately and professionally to the needs of a survivor of sexual assault, while also providing as much comfort as possible in such situations.

“This center is a huge step forward in our community’s ability to provide the full spectrum of care that is so urgently needed in a crisis situation following an assault,” stated Montserrat Caballero, program director of SACASA. “Sexual assault is a reality in Southern Arizona and it is our responsibility as a community to provide support. This facility will help meet the needs of survivors. This partnership is incredibly unique and highlights the level of compassion and care that Tucson Medical Center has for all survivors.”

The mission of Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, a member of Arizona’s Children Association family of agencies, is to reduce the trauma and incidence of sexual assault by providing treatment and promoting prevention of sexual abuse, incest, molestation and rape.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461