When someone is sexually assaulted and report it, the first thing responders usually do is address the victim’s medical needs and then conduct a forensic examination.
To that end, the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. have partnered to offer training for cases of sexual assault and using forensic examination.
“We are training people to help serve victims and survivors of sexual assault by attending to the medical needs and performing the forensic component of the case,” said Maisie B. Tenorio, coalition executive director.
The Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Training is being held at the SandCastle of the Hyatt Regency Saipan, from Dec. 11 to 15.
“When someone is sexually assaulted, whether as a child, adolescent or as an adult, and report it to law enforcement or the Division of Youth Services, they usually offer the forensic exam,” Tenorio said.
The medical and forensic examinations are critical components, she added.
“The victims are offered a medical examination for a number of reasons. First, to make sure that the victim or survivor doesn’t have any immediate medical needs. Two, if there is injury and victim needs medication, we can treat it properly such as give them antibiotics as an example.
“As for the forensic component of the examination, the providers—either a nurse or a doctor—address the health needs and then they will also collect evidence. So that in the event the victim chooses to pursue the case further or the [Attorney General’s] office decides to prosecute, then there is evidence they can use for trial,” she added.
According to Tenorio, the last SAFE training on Saipan was in 2011.
“Nurses and doctors come and go…so we needed to just kind of update everyone by bringing everyone back and…retrain people on how to do the sexual assault forensic exam,” she said.
“Doctors and nurses have been conducting these exams. This training will help them do it in a comprehensive way so that victims will get the best service,” she added.
The guest speaker was Dr. Linda E. Ledray, founder and director of the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Sexual Assault Resource Service, one of the first sexual assault nurse examiner programs, which she developed in 1977.
Ledray, who is a member of the International Association of Forensic Nurses, last held the training in the CNMI in 2011.
“She’s a certified national trainer and she has been here before and we have her back again, which is very good because she knows our situation,” Tenorio said.
“It was with her help that we developed the first program at the [Commonwealth Health Center] in 2011. She did the training…so that when a victim is brought or comes to the hospital, we are ready to take care of their healthcare needs and address the evidence collection,” Tenorio added.
CHC doctors, nurses, social workers, mental health counselors, health providers, law enforcement officers, and advocates from the Department of Public Safety, Division of Youth Services and Child Protection Unit, and Karidat Social Services attended the seminar.
“Most victims never report, so we don’t know how many cases are actually out there. All we know are the ones that are reported. That’s why we plan to do this every few years, so long as the nurses and doctors at CHC that have been trained stay because this helps us keep the program continuously running and implemented,” Tenorio added.
She said the coalition has been doing public education and awareness over the years and will continue to do so.
“We go to the schools, different agencies, and even businesses like the hotels to talk about sexual harassment or sexual assault. We are open for people to ask us if they want us to come to their community or business to talk about sexual harassment or sexual assault as we can do a presentation based on your needs,” she said.
“We are actively planning for April 2018 as that month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month where the public can know more about sexual assault,” she added.