GREAT FALLS- A local medical team is coming together to help survivors of sexual assault through their trauma.
Alexa Daskalos, a registered nurse, has been a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) for the past year.
“I knew I wanted to be a SANE before I became a nurse. I was exposed to it in nursing school, and I was really inspired by these SANE nurses,” Daskalos said.
Daskalos says SANE nurses are a voice for the voiceless.
“Once they are exposed to that kind of trauma, it does not end,” Daskalos said.
Steven Brant, Benefis Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) coordinator, says Cascade County has a huge need for SANE nurses.
“We officially kicked our program off in 2016, so prior to that we were doing about one case a month. When we officially started the program, we did 64 cases within the first year,” Brant said.
Brant says they had 110 cases last year, close to one case every three days.
“When we built the new ER, we built a specific room to do this. It is in a safe location,” Brant said.
When you walk into the new room, there is a small room with two chairs. Brant says this is where they do the interview. Then someone from the SANE team will collect evidence of the assault through an exam.
“It is really important that we get that evidence collected right away, but they do not have to make up their mind going through the whole process of pressing charges and court system,” Daskalos said.
The forensic rape examination payment program holds sexual assault exam kits up to 60 days, giving survivors time to decide on what they would like to do.
“Once we are done, we have a complete bathroom facility with a shower so people can clean up afterwards,” Brant said.
Other support is also available for these survivors.
Nicole Griffith with Victim-Witness Assistance Services has been a part of the organization for the past 12 years.
“We are here for as little or as much of the process as the survivor wants us to be,” Griffith said.
Griffith’s team gives survivors needed support, and it carries on after the exam.
“If the person chooses to report, we can be there with them during their interview with law enforcement. If it goes through the court process, we are sitting there with them,” Griffith said.
The SANE team and Victim-Witness Assistance Services are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As to why the programs are so important: “It is to make them feel like they are not alone,” Griffin said.
-Margaret DeMarco reporting for MTN