On April 16, GBMC will host Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men's March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault, & Gender Violence, with proceeds benefitting GBMC's SAFE and Domestic Violence programs.
The Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) program provides cost-free services to sexual assault victims ages 13 and above. In a confidential, non-judgmental atmosphere, Forensic Nurse Examiners conduct complete medical-forensic evaluations, including collection of forensic evidence, documentation of findings, emergency contraception and antibiotic treatment to prevent sexually transmitted infections. The SAFE program and its complement, the Domestic Violence program, are located in a secure, private suite away from the hustle and bustle of the Emergency Department. They provide quality personal care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. "It is important for people to know that we are always here for them," says SAFE Clinical Program Manager Laura Clary, RN, FNE-A/P, SANE-A, CFN, CPEN. "Our doors never close and we always have a SAFE nurse and Victim Advocate ready to respond when a patient arrives."
In addition to receiving the necessary medical treatments they require, patients of the SAFE program can expect crisis counseling, as well as new clothes and toiletries before leaving, if needed. The personal touch SAFE offers is vital. "Sometimes when patients come to us, they are so down, depressed, blaming themselves," Clary says. "They need someone to listen and to believe them. SAFE nurses care for the patient and do not place judgment; they give patients back the control that was so violently taken from them."
Similarly, Colleen Moore, Domestic Violence Program Coordinator at GBMC, also emphasizes the importance of empowering victims who come to the program. Her staff aims to promote a survivor's sense of personal agency in a non-directive way, which involves listening and responding, but not forcing someone to take steps they aren't ready for. The danger of violence can increase when someone attempts to leave an abusive relationship. "Many survivors are faced with significant barriers to leaving: finances, housing and concern for children are prominent obstacles," Moore says. "Some are trapped in a cycle of violence that rotates through a 'honeymoon phase' when they hope things will change."
People who visit SAFE and the Domestic Violence program can meet with an advocate who will assist them with a tailored safety plan and danger assessment. Patients can take advantage of referrals for counseling, shelter and legal resources, but most importantly, they can expect to be treated with compassion and respect. "It is a great feeling when a patient hugs you and says 'Thanks for listening, for being here when I needed you,' " Clary says. "We actually had a patient say in court, 'I truly feel like my SAFE nurse saved my life.'"
You can support the SAFE and Domestic Violence programs by attending and/or participating in Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, whether male or female, heels or not! In addition to the one-mile walk on GBMC's beautiful Towson campus, there will be a post-walk party with food and prizes. Visit www.gbmc.org/walkamile to register and for more information.