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SAFE and Sound

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By:

Jessica Schoeffield

February 19, 2019
Your partner has just beaten and strangled you, and assaulted your 8-month-old baby. Two of your other children, ages 3 and 11 years, were there to witness the crime. You live in the United States, but don’t speak the language. You’re alone, terrified, and in pain. You’ve been betrayed by the very person who is supposed to love you most, and your entire life has been turned upside down.

The care team at GBMC HealthCare System sees heartbreaking scenarios like this one regularly. Fortunately, the hospital is uniquely equipped to respond, thanks to its Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) Program. The program’s specially trained nurses perform detailed medical-forensic exams and documentation, collect evidence, and provide follow-up support. GBMC is the only hospital in Baltimore County to provide expert medical-forensic exams to patients who have been victim to a strangulation assault.

Because of a close collaboration between GBMC’s SAFE and DV Program and local law enforcement, a team of caregivers was ready and waiting to help the family above when they arrived at the hospital. The patient and her children were taken to a quiet room in the Pediatric Emergency Department. The team used a translation service to communicate with her, explaining what they would do to address her family’s needs. A Child Life Specialist provided an activity table and other age-appropriate toys and stimulation to the younger children, as well as alternative focus and support to the 11-year-old child, who played an integral role in saving his mom and siblings.

The care team secured an adjacent room, so the mother could undergo a forensic exam and strangulation assessment without being completely separated from her kids. Pediatric physicians and nurses treated the infant and screened for any previous undocumented abuse. Domestic Violence Advocates provided food, formula, diapers, and wipes for the children’s immediate needs. Thanks to donations made to the SAFE and DV Program, the family was also given stuffed toys, coloring books, crayons, and handcrafted blankets. Once the mother’s exam and treatment were complete, she was immediately reunited with her children. Before the mother was released from the hospital, Domestic Violence Advocates coordinated a time for her to meet with a Spanish-speaking staff member from a community shelter to arrange emergency housing, ensuring the family would be kept together.

Situations like this happen in our community more often than people want to admit. This mother and her children received compassionate medical and psychosocial care from the GBMC SAFE and DV Program right when they needed help the most. Will you join us at Walk a Mile in Their Shoes on Saturday, April 6 to support them and others who need the same care? Register to walk and fundraise at http://gbmc.healthcare/walkamile/
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