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SD Expands Nurses' Network to Aid Sexual-Assault Survivors


Wednesday, December 22, 2021   

For the most part, rural parts of South Dakota have gone without specialized nurses who help treat survivors of sexual assault. But underserved areas are getting more resources through a statewide program, including telehealth assessments.

In the past couple years, an initiative has worked to get more health-care professionals onboard in South Dakota as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. Kristi Kranz, who heads the SANE program through the Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment, said these individuals play an important role in working with someone who's just experienced a very traumatic event, "both on the medical side, to ensure that they're receiving the best medical care, and then also on the forensic side, to collect the potential evidence if the victim wants to move forward with reporting that to law enforcement."

One of the emerging elements of the program is through Avera Health, which now offers around-the-clock telehealth exams in rural emergency rooms. Trained SANE staff help with patient assessments as the person is being tended to by onsite medical personnel. Avera provides these exams at 17 locations in South Dakota.

Prior to these options, said Jen Canton, SANE supervisor at Avera Health, survivors often were sent two to three hours to the state's largest cities, such as Sioux Falls or Rapid City. She said having immediate, specialized care much closer helps prevent setbacks in an assault survivor's attempt to confront the situation.

"It kind of sets the pathway for their healing," she said. "So, if they have a bad experience in the ER, it can negatively affect their healing. If they have a positive one, it sets them on a positive road to healing."

She said launching this part of the program has been slow at times due to the pandemic, but all 17 sites now are in a position to help. Canton said being ready this time of year is crucial, because holidays can see an uptick in assault and domestic-violence cases. Leaders behind South Dakota's broader SANE program have said it has been renewed for another year of funding, in hopes of training more nurses.

Disclosure: Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Health Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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