During Sexual Assault Awareness Month we are taking the time to share information about the importance of a victim centered approach through forensic services. Here are some questions with
our Bridge Forensic Services Operations Manager, Beth McCord, MSN Family Nurse Practitioner, SANE-A.
Q1: Does Mississippi have a backlog?
Most states have a backlog with their forensics laboratory, but it’s hard to answer that question due to a lot of unknown factors in our state. Many kits in our state are left in hospital refrigerators or law enforcement evidence departments. In Mississippi, it would be difficult to know just how many kits haven’t been tested. Several factors play into the “why” kits are tested or aren’t picked up by LEO. These can include: the patient not wanting to make a report, the jurisdiction not coming to pick up the kit from the healthcare facility, The patient deciding not to go forward with charges, and possibly the LEO not having a case to go forward with. These are just a few reasons I have heard in the past that would hinder a kit going to the forensic laboratory.
Q2: What is a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam?
The forensic medical exam includes a head to toe physical assessment with sample collection. This exam is completed with the patients consent. Currently in MS we have a specialized kit that is 21 steps. Not all steps have to be completed and the exam can be stopped at any time if the patient wants to stop.
Q3: The Importance of DNA in Sexual Assault Cases: Where is DNA found? What happens to the DNA once collected?
Beth: DNA can be found on clothes, on any part of the body including genitalia. Once samples are collected from the patient, they are sent to law enforcement who takes the samples to the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory for testing.
Q4: How do you collaborate with law enforcement?
Beth: SANEs collaborate with law enforcement from the beginning. Once the kit is collected, it is given to law enforcement in order to maintain chain of custody. The Center for Violence Prevention’s Bridge Forensic Clinic gives law enforcement another option for clients to have an exam completed in a clinic setting instead of a chaotic emergency room. SANEs work with LEO to help educate them as well as the client regarding medical issues or memory issues.
Q5: How do you establish comfort with your clients?
Beth: Establishing comfort after a sexual assault is tough. Steps that can assist include building a rapport very early in meeting the client. Next is making sure the client understands they control the exam and have the power to stop at any time.
Q6: Explain what it means to be trauma informed as a SANE?
Beth: The SANE learns to be trauma informed from training. Being a SANE means you understand how trauma changes the brain. With that understanding, we are able to educate the patient on trauma responses in their body as well as recognizing physical signals our patients are thinking but aren't verbal about.
To learn more about The Bridge Forensic Services: Click here.
"The Center for Violence Prevention proudly operates the Bridge Forensic Clinic managed by our own Family Nurse Practitioner Beth McCord. Whether assessing and addressing injuries, collecting evidence, or preventing or treating disease, a forensic nurse’s priority is always the health and safety of the patient. Forensic nurses also provide consultation and testimony for civil and criminal proceedings. Communities that promote forensic nursing arm themselves with the vital resources to combat the short- and long term-health consequences of violence and abuse, launch effective prevention efforts, and ensure the administration of justice."