April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a month-long campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. According to New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) 1 in 4 women and 1 in 20 men have reported experiencing some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status, age, social background, or economic status.
"New Hampshire's rate of sexual assault is actually higher than the national average. Seeking out a medical forensic exam after an assault can be life-saving. Trauma-informed care is essential after an assault and our team is here to help," says Lindsey Cushing, WHNP, SANE-A, who has completed specialized training as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and works as a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner in the OB/GYN department at Cheshire Medical Center.
"It's so important for a person who has experienced a sexual or violent assault to receive medical care and a wellness screening. We suggest going to the Emergency Department if the assault has happened within five days. A nurse from our Medical Forensic Care team will be there for you and can offer a thorough exam," says Cushing.
During the medical forensic exam, Cushing or another medical forensic provider will offer a head-to-toe medical exam, review medications for pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection prevention, and discuss evidence collection options. They can also introduce the patient to an advocate from the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention (MCVP), review safety planning, and help coordinate follow-up care if necessary. You can learn more about the process in our Care for Sexual and Violent Assaults FAQ.
If the assault happened more than five days ago, Cushing recommends calling the OB/GYN department or your primary care provider to check in and discuss what kinds of testing, medications, or services could be provided. Members of the Medical Forensic Care team can still offer trauma-informed care, and medical or forensic advice at any appointment if you ask your provider to call them.
Medical Forensic Care team at Cheshire
Cushing and Kelsey Page, RN, SANE-A, are two of Cheshire's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) and have spearheaded medical forensic care at our Medical Center. Both women have achieved additional certification in the care of adult and adolescent patients.
Members of the Medical Forensic Care team at Cheshire are usually Registered Nurses (RNs) or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who have been specially trained to provide comprehensive, specialized care to sexual assault survivors, including the collection of forensic evidence. In New Hampshire, the training process includes 64 hours of online coursework, hands-on clinical simulations, and an extensive orientation period.
Cushing knows there are many reasons why a person who has experienced a sexual assault may not reach out for help or seek medical care. That's just one reason Cushing and Page recently spoke with Katrina Nugent, MEd, prevention education program director at MCVP, as part of their Ask an Advocate online video series. Watch their interview about Cheshire's SANE nursing program.
Cheshire Medical Center’s Emergency Department is open 24 hours per day, every day of the year and has members of the Medical Forensic Care team on staff or on call at all times. Learn more about care following a sexual or violent assault on our Care for Sexual and Violent Assaults page.
For help regarding sexual violence, call MCVP's 24-hour crisis line at 603-352-3782 (Keene) or toll-free (New Hampshire only) at 1-888-511-MCVP (6287).