Explaining the SAFE & DV Program
More than one million women, half a million men, and around 1.4 million children in Maryland are survivors of sexual violence. GBMC’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Program (SAFE) is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to document and treat injuries, collect evidence, and connect survivors with counselors and other resources in the community. SAFE nurse Barbara Harris talks with Magic 95.9 host April Watts about the services available and how GBMC is working to empower survivors and help them begin their healing process.
“We provide services in a safe, confidential, respectful, and non-judgmental atmosphere,” explains Barbara. “Victims of sexual violence often feel like they’ve lost control over their lives. We work to re-empower them, so they can regain a sense of safety and control.”
The program is coordinated by a team of registered nurses who are specially trained to care for survivors of rape, sexual assault, child abuse, and intimate partner violence. The SAFE nurses perform forensic examinations to collect evidence, which is then submitted to the Baltimore County Police crime lab. The evidence can be submitted anonymously if the survivor does not want to press charges right away and it will be stored for at least 20 years so that it’s available if the victim changes his or her mind. The State of Maryland pays for the exam so there is no charge to the patient and insurance will not be billed.
In addition to the forensic nursing services, the program also connects survivors with an advocate who helps survivors with crisis counseling, safety planning, danger assessment, and referrals for counseling, legal, and shelter services within the community. The advocates also offer follow-up support by phone.
“If you’ve experienced sexual assault or intimate partner violence, the sooner you see us the better,” adds Barbara. “You do have 120 hours (five days) to receive an exam, so even if you don’t see us right away, you still have the option.”