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MDI Hospital Nurse Trained to Assist Victims of Sexual Assault

BAR HARBOR — Health care professionals are often the first responders for survivors of sexual assault. To ensure a rapid, effective, compassionate response, Vicky Eaton, RN, an emergency room nurse at MDI Hospital, has undergone specialized training for the past ten years to help victims cope with and overcome the physical and emotional toll of sexual assault.

“I feel strongly that it is important to provide local access to a coordinated, victim-centered response that emphasizes confidentiality and compassion,” says Eaton, a certified Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) nurse. National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month takes place every April, and Eaton observes the month each year by speaking out to promote prevention and awareness.

“SAFEs are advocates for each patient, making sure they receive the best standard of care in each situation,” she says. “Each of us has been trained to provide comprehensive care for the sexual assault patient. We’re also trained to be an expert witness in court.”

Maine’s Attorney General’s office administers the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner program, providing training and technical assistance for health care providers in the care of patients who have suffered sexual assault. The program also provides training in the use of the Maine sex crimes kit for collection of evidence.

SAFEs are trained to perform medical forensic exams, minimize the patient’s waiting period to receive care and to collect evidence in a manner that meets state standards promoting successful prosecution. “We are also trained to provide compassionate care in an effort to reduce the trauma of sexual assault,” says Eaton.

Throughout the state SAFEs are part of regional networks of sexual assault responders, known as Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART). SART team members include local law enforcement, District Attorneys’ offices, SAFEs, and sexual assault advocates.

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