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, age, social background, or economic status.
"New Hampshire has a higher than average sexual assault rate per capita. Getting an exam after an assault can be life-saving. Care is essential after trauma 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 Women's Health department at Cheshire Medical Center.
"It's so important for a person who has experienced a sexual 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 SANE team will be there for you and perform a thorough exam," says Cushing.
During the exam, Cushing or another SANE will discuss evidence collection options and prescribe any necessary medications for pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV prevention with the patient. She will also review safety planning, introduce the patient to an advocate from Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention (MCVP), and help coordinate follow-up care if necessary. You can learn more about the process in our Sexual Assault FAQ.
If the assault happened more than five days ago, Cushing recommends calling Women's Health or your primary care provider to check in and discuss what kinds of testing, medications, or services could be provided.
SANE Team at Cheshire
Cushing is one of seven Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) at Cheshire, along with Kelsey Page, RN, SANE-A, who also works in Cheshire's Women's Health department. Both women have achieved additional certification in the care of adult and adolescent patients.
Members of the SANE team at Cheshire are 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. The certification process includes a 64-hour training course, 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 program.
Cheshire Medical Center’s Emergency Department is open 24 hours per day, every day of the year and have members of the SANE team on staff or on call at all times. Learn more about care following sexual assault on our Sexual Assault FAQ 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).