By: Lani Hansen, Senior Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma– The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of Health Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program helps recognize sexual assault awareness month in April.
The SANE Program is funded by the Victim of Crimes Act (VOCA) and they are partnered with MCN’s Family Violence Prevention Program. The program is open 24-hours a day and 7 days a week, available to males and females who have been sexually assaulted. They service victims who have been affiliated with sexual assault, intimate-partner violence and strangulation. Services are open to patients no matter race, age or religion.
“We have two nurses who rotate a 24-hour schedule,” SANE Program Director Vanessa Phillips said. “We do exams on pediatrics and adult patients for sexual assault. We see Native and non-Native patients.”
Every April is set to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault, educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. According to statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), more than 3,000 Native Americans and Alaska Natives reported experiencing sexual violence at some point in their lives.
In 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit, many services have shut down but Phillips said they remained open 24/7. The SANE Program continued taking calls for sexual assault and domestic violence, the advocates continued responding too.
“The only difference was before the victim could bring many people up to the exam room, but during COVID we only allowed one person to be with them,” SANE Nurse Brandy Treagesser said.
When a victim comes in for an exam, there is one support person, an advocate and if they are reporting the assault then one law enforcement. Phillips said the victim does not have to report if they are 18 and over. SANE gives out antibiotics and Plan B if needed to their patients. According to Phillips, if someone comes for the exam and does not report after they go through a sexual assault kit then she hands the kit to Lighthorse for them to keep in case the patient reports the assault.
“When Lighthorse gets an anonymous kit, they do not know who it belongs to. I have a key for who it belongs too,” Phillips said.
Treagesser added, “For sexual assault cases the exam process takes from an hour to eight hours depending on the exam. The exam is a compete head-to-toe assessment, checking for any medical injuries or anything that needs to be treated that is our primary goal. Secondary we photograph and document any injuries, we collect evidence if it happened in less than 120 hours.”
If the victim does not file, the MCN Family Violence Prevention Program will still be advocates for the victim. The MCN Family Violence Prevention Program (FVPP) to help victims of sexual assault, domestic violence (Intimate partner violence), and strangulation assessments whether they are reporting or not. The FVPP will provide advocacy throughout an investigation and/or court proceedings. They will still be an advocate for the victims even if they do not want to report. FVPP provides supportive services that are needed regardless of any criminal proceedings. Child sexual assault advocacy can be provided to the non-offending parent or at the caregivers request. They set the victim up with resources, a safety plan, shelter and if they need clothing.
The SANE Program has set up training with local law enforcement to educate them on sexual assault and all that goes into that program.
Phillips wanted people to know the program is available for those who have been a victim of any type of violence or assault that they are ready to listen. Also, the program supports their patients and respect what they want or need. The SANE program has two locations, one is at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Medical Center in Okmulgee and the other place is at Creek Nation Community Hospital in Okemah.
For more information about the SANE Program contact Vanessa Phillips at 918-758-5114. To set up an exam call 918-732-7979.