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Explaining the SAFE and DV Program and How it Can Help You

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By:

Laura Tenbus

May 4, 2020
While the stay-at-home order is intended to protect people from the coronavirus, it unfortunately puts some at more risk. Sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence have not stopped due to the pandemic. Abusers are often close to their victims; the stress and financial strain, in addition to being confined with their abuser, can create very dangerous situations. The Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) Program at GBMC wants everyone to know they are still open and available to support anyone who needs it – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

All care is provided free of charge – patients never receive a bill – in a private and confidential suite. Due to the pandemic, the SAFE and DV Program has modified its workflow so that patients who don’t need emergency medical care can come straight to the suite’s entrance instead of through the Emergency Department. The care team recognizes that victims may be concerned about the risk of COVID-19, and wants to make its services as accessible as possible.

For patients who do not wish to come in or are unable to do so, the SAFE and DV Program offers a secure and confidential voicemail that is checked every few hours by a victim advocate, who will contact the caller and provide help. There are also many community resources that have 24-hour hotlines (listed at the bottom of the page). Laura Clary, BSN, RN, FNE-A/P, SANE-A, Clinical Program Manager, SAFE Program, wants victims to know they are not alone, and people are here to help.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also created an environment that makes it easy for abuse to begin, even if it hasn’t happened in the past. Laura identified several red flags that could indicate the beginning of abuse:
  • Verbal abuse
  • Control of movement or finances
  • Threatening or intimidating behavior
  • Efforts to isolate you from your friends and family
  • Mild violence – this often escalates in times of stress
Unfortunately, reports of sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence have significantly dropped since the pandemic started. This may seem like a good thing, but it does not mean a decrease in abuse. Most reports of child abuse come from teachers or coaches in schools, and children no longer have the ability to disclose to those people. It may also be unsafe for adult victims to disclose their situations because they are so close to their abusers.

While it is mandatory to report child abuse to law enforcement, adults may disclose to healthcare providers without the police getting involved. The SAFE and DV Program will never contact authorities without explicit consent from the victim. A person who has been assaulted may come in for a forensic examination up to five days after the assault occurs, but Laura urges victims to come in as soon as possible. “The sooner you come in for care, the more evidence is likely to be present, and the sooner we are able to provide you with medical care such as pregnancy prophylaxis and medication for sexually transmitted diseases,” she explains.

Sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence do not discriminate. Anyone can be a victim regardless of their gender identity, race, or economic status. GBMC urges all victims to seek help in whatever way is safest for them, whether it’s coming in, calling, or contacting resources online. A list of helpful resources is included below.

Baltimore County Police Department
  • If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
  • If 911 is not an option, have a family member or friend call the non-emergency number at 410-887-2222, email iwatch@baltimorecountymd.gov, or call the Special Victims Unit at 410-887-2223.
GBMC’s SAFE and DV Program – 443-849-3323, www.gbmc.org/safe-dv

The Family Tree (parenting helpline) – 1-800-243-7337 or live chat at www.familytreemd.org
  • Connects parents to resources to prevent child abuse and provides family counseling, children and youth services, and public policy and advocacy
Turn Around (helpline) – 443-279-0379, www.turnaroundinc.org
  • Provides therapeutic services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence including legal advocacy, shelter, employment readiness, and case management
House of Ruth Maryland – 410-889-7884, www.hruth.org
  • Provides services to victims of intimate partner violence including emergency shelter, legal clinic services, counseling services, and abuse intervention
Family Crisis Center – Office: 410-285-4357 – Shelter: 410-285-7496

Baltimore County Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Hotline – 410-828-6390

SARC Harford County – 410-836-8430

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
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