Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiners bring training, care

By Staff ReportsOctober 29, 2019

Staff Reports

No one ever wants to find themselves or their loved ones in the unfortunate situation where they have been the victim of sexual violence. For Tricare beneficiaries on Fort Gordon and the surrounding areas, Eisenhower Army Medical Center, maintains its standards of excellence by providing 5-Star forensic health care services to patients in need.

EAMC has a fully functioning Sexual Assault Medical Management Office and a team of professionals providing patient-centered, trauma-specific care to patients who have been victims of sexual trauma, sexual assault, abuse or rape. These services are provided 24/7, 365 days a year.

Just recently, the program has expanded to capture the most vulnerable of patients: pediatrics. Currently, the SAMMO can provide care to patients of all ages.

"Pediatric services have been needed for quite some time," said Dr. Victoria Franz, a family nurse practitioner and board certified forensic nurse and the sexual assault medical director. "I am proud of the team and excited to say we have capable and competent staff to provide the same high-level care to pediatric patients that we have been providing to adults and adolescents for years … care that exceeds what they might expect in many instances in the community.

"We have met or exceeded training standards, and follow all guidelines set forth by the Department of Justice, The International Association of Forensic Nurses and the National Advocacy Centers standards for accreditation," she said.

IAFN is celebrating Forensic Nurses Nov. 11-15. Meanwhile, across the DOD, more than Registered Nurses are provided specialty forensic training. The AMEDD Center and School trains MDs, PAs, NPs and RNs to the highest standards as Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiners.

Above and beyond their respective medical training, the SAMFEs are trained in compassionate specialty medical care, the neurobiology of trauma, forensic photography, forensic sample collection, strangulation, chain of custody, and many aspects of the legal system. The forensically trained medical professionals serving Fort Gordon encompass five RNs, a PA, an MD, a NP and two dedicated LCSWs as well as a sea of other medical specialists who assist in many capacities to provide full scope care to all patients.

"They are some of the best trained professionals in their field in the area," said Franz. "Members of the EAMC team are often called upon as subject matter experts to assist in training across the DOD."

It important for victims of sexual trauma to seek medical care, The SAMFEs are there for patients who have been assaulted if they choose to make a report to police or not.

Many victims never report to law enforcement, but they still need care.

There are some consequences of sexual assault that can be mitigated if treated prophylactically (before they occur). For example, pa-tients are offered emergency contraceptives, HIV and STI prophylaxis -- medications to prevent the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or other sexually transmitted infections. However, some of these medications can only be administered within a certain period of time.

The SAMFEs can also offer the patient the opportunity to have samples collected that may have evidentiary value, even if they do not wish to file a police report, to preserve any biological substances before degradation can occur. Patients can be connected with other re-sources, such as advocates, to assist in the healing process as well. Time is of the essence following an assault -- both medically and forensically. Patients who have competent, compassionate, supportive medical care and advocacy services have fewer long-term complications and are more likely to participate with law enforcement.

Forensic health care team members are medical professionals who work closely with SHARP professionals, Family Advocacy professionals, CID, OSI, NCIS, local law enforcement, JAG, local judiciary systems, the VA, local agencies such as Augusta rape crisis, and the child enrichment child advocacy centers. As the expertise of the team continues to expand, so do the services they offer. Recently, they have been called upon to assist with domestic violence forensic exams and child abuse examinations due to their ability to medically assess and document injury, photograph and provide courtroom testimony when necessary.