Tonawanda News

The Town

May 1, 2014

Catholic Health partners with Crisis Services

Tonawanda News — Crisis Services announced a partnership with Catholic Health on Wednesday that will provide services to victims of sexual assault in the community.

As part of the agreement, Crisis Services will provide all Catholic Health Hospitals with 24/7 availability of specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. The service will be available at Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, the Mercy Ambulatory Care Center, Sisters of Charity Hospital and the St. Joseph Campus.

According to 2012 data from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, there were 211 forcible rapes reported to the police in Erie County. 

“We know that this is only the tip of the iceberg,” Robyn Wiktorski-Reynolds, an advocate program coordinator from Crisis Services said. “Fewer than 10 percent of victims report their assault.”

SANE examiners are registered nurses who have completed specialized education in caring for a patient who has experienced sexual abuse. The nurses complete 40 hours of training and clinical training. They are trained to obtain a medical and forensic history, perform a physical assessment, provide information for referrals, preserve and document forensic evidence and provide fact and expert witness testimony. 

The program improves patient care and increases reporting and conviction rates for sexual abuse crimes.  

National statistics indicate that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and 63 percent of assaults are not reported to police. Of those who are assaulted, 81 percent of women report significant short- and long-term effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Catholic Health hopes to have a positive impact on those statistics through the SANE program.

“Having these nurses available around the clock is a valuable asset for victims of sexual assault who seek care in our emergency departments, as well as the ER staff who care for them,” said Aimee Gomlak, the vice president of WomenCare at Catholic Health. “With the support of Crisis Services, we can ensure these patients receive the attention they deserve to care for their physical and emotional needs, as well as manage the collection of forensic evidence and police reporting.”

Crisis Services is the only state Department of Health Designated Rape Crisis Center for Erie County, and it assists survivors of rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse and incest. The organization also operates the state Domestic and Sexual Violence hotline, which provides training and continuing education to SANE nurses throughout the county. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.

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