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Victims Advocates Needed for Expanding Sexual Assault Response - KOAM TV 7

Victims Advocates Needed for Expanding Sexual Assault Response

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI -

When a patient meets Karen Scott, it's often after a traumatic experience. 

"Most of our patients are brought by law enforcement," Scott said. 

She's a trained sexual assault nurse examiner, and coordinator of Freeman Hospital's S.A.N.E. program.

For the last 7 years Freeman Hospital has offered S.A.N.E., "Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners". Medical professionals specifically trained to handle cases of rape. Starting this month, Mercy is adopting that program.

When Scott is treating a sexual assault victim it's also her job to collect evidence which could be used in court. Meanwhile, a victim's advocate from Lafayette House is on standby for the patient as well. 

"And basically their responsibility is just that patient in the emergency room," Scott said. 

Sara Short trains sexual assault advocates at Lafayette House to provide emotional support and resources to victims. The shelter has 9 active volunteers which are on call about a week at a time. 

"[The volunteers] are the kind of the first response to [victims]," Short said.

According to Lafayette House, Freeman has called on a volunteer advocate 12 times in the last four months. That trend is expected to increase now that Mercy is adding the S.A.N.E. program with assistance from Lafayette House.

"We see victims of sexual assault quite often. and so we wanted to make sure we were providing the best care that we could," S.A.N.E nurse Scarlett Tomasi said. "They also offer so many after-care services like counseling and safe shelter so they're such an integral part of the team."

Which brings up a problem for Lafayette House: needing more volunteers.

"As many as we can get, really," Short said. "The more that we have the better."

In June there were 7 patients which could have used a Lafayette House victims advocate. And the Lafayette House, at it's current number of volunteers, is unsure what it will do if there are two simultaneous calls from Mercy and Freeman.

"There's always a need for more volunteers," Short said. "You know you're walking into a situation where this person has just been traumatized.. so to just be there, not judge.. and just be the support for them [is huge]."

Folks wanting to volunteer as an advocate should contact the Lafayette House.

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