With 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men experiencing rape or attempted rape at some time in their lives, Murfreesboro's Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital has made its sexual assault treatment program a key priority over the past 10 years.
Debbie Curtis, MSN, APN, CEN, SANE-A is a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) in the local hospital's Emergency Department. She has worked here in Murfreesboro since 1988. She received her SANE-A certification in 2007. It focuses on and adults and adolescents.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are specifically trained in providing medical care for people who have been sexually assaulted, including the meticulous process of collecting evidence for possible use in court, while meeting the patient's physical and emotional needs.
In addition to her work as a SANE-A, Curtis also serves as President of the Rutherford County Sexual Assault Response Team, a local nonprofit made up of members from every law enforcement agency in the County, the District Attorney's Office, nurses from area hospitals and representatives from the local domestic violence and sexual assault program.
Curtis says the problem of sexual assault is multi-faceted and requires a community response. "The idea is that we are stronger together, and we want the entire Rutherford County community to know that sexual assault is a serious problem that we can all help solve," Curtis said. "Every person has a role to play, big or small, and together we can create a strong ripple effect of change. From modeling healthy behaviors to verbally addressing inappropriate conduct to intervening if we witness sexual assault, there is an action each one of us can take.
Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital has one nurse who is SANE-certified and two SANE-trained nurses. The local hospital sees an average of two people each week who have been sexually assaulted.
Sexual assault treatment protocol includes a free comprehensive medical forensic exam, which includes obtaining a medical history, collecting evidence, offering information and support about legal and medical options, providing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy prevention medications, evaluating for injuries and illnesses, providing a change of clothing, toiletries and a place to shower after the exam, and providing referrals for follow-up care including counseling and medical treatment. The patient may accept or decline any part of the exam or suggested treatment.
Curtis said, "We want every person in Rutherford County to know that Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital is a safe place where sexual assault patients can receive compassionate medical care and have forensic evidence collected. We are here to help, listen and provide support, and the patient is always in control."
Curtis is asked frequently to consult and speak across the state to help improve sexual assault awareness and services for communities; she helped write state laws regarding sexual assault and recently was invited by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to improve their sexual assault kits.
ABOUT SAINT THOMAS HEALTH
In Tennessee, Ascension's Saint Thomas Health operates nine hospitals in addition to a comprehensive network of affiliated joint ventures, medical practices, clinics and rehabilitation facilities that cover a 68-county area and employ more than 8,000 associates. Across the state, Saint Thomas Health provided more than $78 million in community benefit and care of persons living in poverty in fiscal year 2016.