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Nurses at Sexual Assault/ Domestic Violence Care Centre go above and beyond for their patients

May 5, 2014

The Sexual Assault/ Domestic Violence Care Centre (SA/DVCC) nurses recognize how difficult it can be for a victim/survivor of sexual assault and/or domestic violence to come forward for help. There are many societal myths that create barriers and blame victims for what has happened to them. Myths about what she is wearing, how much she/he drank or that she was asking for it, prevent victims from seeking help.

These common misconceptions are just a few of many that perpetuate the rape culture that is heard of in the media. They often provide an “out” for the perpetrators, leaving the onus of responsibility with the victim.

“Change starts within us. As nurses in the SA/DVCC, we are given the chance every day to dispel these myths, to empower victims and spread awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence,” said Dunja Pavlic, registered nurse at Women’s College Hospital’s SA/DVCC

The SA/DVCC nurses provide care to women, men and trans persons who have been sexually assaulted or have been the victims of domestic violence. The centre is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Over the last year, the nurses have seen more than 400 patients, the majority of whom were sexually assaulted. The nurses provide crisis support, medical attention, forensic evidence collection, followup care and referrals for counselling and community services.

“We really want victims to know how important it is to come see us as soon as possible following the incident,” said Amen Idahosa, registered nurse, SA/DVCC, WCH. “The earlier we are able to see a patient, the sooner we can provide any necessary medication to prevent sexually transmitted infections, HIV and pregnancy. If the person thinks they may have been drugged, a blood and urine sample are best if taken as soon as possible. If the person reports to the police and wants forensic evidence collected, the sooner the samples are collected, the more likely that evidence can be found.”

All services are confidential, although exceptions include the reporting of children known to be at risk of abuse either directly or indirectly, or if a victim is at risk for self-harm or harming someone else.  As there is no mandatory reporting of abuse to police, police are only involved with the consent of the victim.  

All of the SA/DVCC nurses have extensive training and preparation in sexual assault and domestic violence to ensure they are able to help patients in every way possible. The nurses go through patient care training, complete online learning courses and receive on-the-job practical experience while being mentored by an experienced registered nurse.

“Being a nurse in the SA/DVCC is rewarding on so many levels, especially since we are given the chance to help those in need and educate people all at once,” said Pam Spanogiannopoulos, registered nurse, SA/DVCC, WCH.  “We want patients to know that we are here to support them, help them heal and move on.”

As one of the first hospital-based centres, WCH’s SA/DVCC provides services that have become known throughout the city. At present, the SA/DVCC nurses travel to other hospitals such as St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Mount Sinai Hospital and Sunnybrook Hospital in order to provide care to patients who require their specialized skill set in other parts of the city.

This May, the SA/DVCC nurses will mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month by promoting the importance of seeking support as quickly as possible following an assault and by attempting to eradicate gender-based violence on a larger scale.

To learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, visit the SA/DVCC booth in the lobby from May 2-8 and from May 14-16. To learn more about the SA/DVCC program and services, click here.

The SA/DVCC team
The SA/DVCC team marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month this May.
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