In this episode, Dr. Dovec interviews Ashley McAree, MSN, RN, FNE-A/P, SANE-A, Human Trafficking Liaison for GBMC’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) Program, about the services the program provides, the program’s new facility, and what parents can do to protect their children from online predators.
GBMC’s SAFE and DV program is staffed by 19 specially trained forensic nurses and six patient advocates who provide care, free of charge, for people of all ages who have experienced sexual assault or abuse, domestic or intimate partner violence, child abuse, or human trafficking. The nurses provide medical exams for patients, collect forensic evidence that is provided to law enforcement with the patient’s consent, and testify about their findings in court. The team also offers emotional support and advocacy services for victims in a safe, confidential environment. They are active in community outreach and education, providing information about preventing sexual abuse and assault and human trafficking.
Ashley started her nursing career with GBMC in 2012 working on the medicine/psychiatric unit. After her supervisor was trained as a SAFE nurse, Ashley became interested in becoming part of the SAFE team. “When I learned more about how SAFE nurses help people affected by sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, and human trafficking, I knew this was what I was born to do,” she said.
The SAFE Program recently moved into a new suite with two large private exam rooms, a family waiting room, a private bathroom, and a forensic interview room where law enforcement partners can talk with child victims. Before the new suite opened, patients in need of SAFE and DV Program services had to seek care in the Emergency Department and children had to go to another location after their exam to be interviewed by law enforcement, which made the experience more stressful.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Ashley noted that children and teens are spending more time online, often without the supervision of their parents. Predators use games and apps with chat features and social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok to contact children and exploit them. “There are 17 million reports per year of sexual exploitation of children under 18 by online predators,” explained Ashley. “And, unfortunately, we know this crime is very much underreported.”
Ashley offered five tips to help parents keep their children safer online —
- Keep the lines of communication with your child open
- Tell children not to talk online to anyone they don’t know in real life
- Teach children never to share personal information online
- Familiarize yourself with your child’s online activities
- Adjust privacy and location settings and use parental controls on all devices.
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 email@example.com, or call the Special Victims Unit at 410-887-2223.
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
- Provides therapeutic services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence including legal advocacy, shelter, employment readiness, and case management
- Provides services to victims of intimate partner violence including emergency shelter, legal clinic services, counseling services, and abuse intervention
Baltimore County Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Hotline – 410-828-6390
SARC Harford County – 410-836-8430
National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233