In an effort to help protect sexual assault victims, St. Luke's Quakertown Hospital has a powerful new tool for collecting evidence and helping to bring perpetrators to justice.With the help of a $20,000 grant from Verizon, St. Luke's has a new MedScope, replacing their more than 20-year-old machine. The MedScope, a camera and computer, takes internal pictures and can be used to gather key evidence and push cases forward.
But it is more than just equipment that is integral to the process, St. Luke's SANE, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, program was instituted last year in an effort to help meet the needs of the community and help victims.
Janet Murray, SANE Clinical Coordinator for all of St. Luke's, explained the hospital's 24 hour coverage with SANE nurses, who are specially trained to deal with victims of sexual assault immediately after the assault occurs. St. Luke's currently has 10 nurses trained, and three more are soon to be finished with their training. The nurses not only know how to work the equipment needed to look for and preserve evidence, but are also trained in being compassionate and in dealing with victims immediately following sexual assault.
Murray explained the world before the SANE program, where victims would have to wait, sometimes hours, for doctors to be available. But now, SANE nurses are called in immediately and can help victims get the aid they need quickly and caringly.
Now, Murray and her team are getting the message out that the program is available to help victims and that evidence can be lost if not collected within 72 hours.
Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry said that her office is in full support of the program and the new equipment.
"I have seen, in my career as a prosecutor, how difficult sexual assault cases are to prosecute," said Henry, who explained that evidence in sexual assault cases is key in getting many convictions. "To go before a judge with this kind of evidence is compelling. I have seen it first hand, the difference that it makes."
But Henry also added that another powerful aspect is the ordeal of testifying that it can save some victims from, "A lot of this really makes the difference to the victims. These victims don't have to testify and go into court. We get this evidence and it turns into a guilty plea and we don't have to go to trail."
St. Luke's SANE program saw 12 cases last year, after beginning in June, and has already seen five cases this year.
"Prior to this program sexual assaults weren't coming to this hospital," said Murray, who wants locals to find comfort that help is nearby in the event that something happens.
David P. Anderson is the editor of The Free Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.