FORT BRAGG, N.C. - According to Col. Frank Christopher, the chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Womack Army Medical Center, WAMC is the only Army medical center that offers a comprehensive program for victims of sexual assault.

"The specially trained sexual assault nurse examiners are a team of 12 nurses, primarily based in the Emergency Department and other clinical areas of Womack, who are specially trained to meet victims' medical, emotional and legal requirement. Additionally, they ensure compliance with all laws and Army regulations," Christopher said.

The SANE nurses are on call 24 hours per day to respond to patients of alleged abuse. They determine the extent of the injuries and how to treat them, perform genital exams, collect potential evidence and photographs, perform baseline testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, they also coordinate with outside agencies for follow up and future treatment.

If needed, the nurses testify in criminal cases. They also ride along with local law enforcement officials, attend criminal trials and conduct scenario-based practical exercises. Each SANE nurse conducts 40 proctored genital exams.

These nurses work in conjunction with Social Work Services and the Victim Advocate's Office at Fort Bragg.

"The SANE nurses provide services to alleged sexual assault patients 16 years old and over. For pediatric patients, we call on Dr. Sharon Cooper or Dr. Ursula Chesney, our developmental and forensic pediatricians, to assist us with those cases," he added.

The improvements in DNA collection and forensic testing allows evidence to be collected longer than the normal 24 hours after an assault. Liz Herring, the SANE program coordinator, explained that the Emergency Department has one specific treatment room that is designated for assault patients.

"The room is set up to do triage, provide treatment, gather evidence, and discharge patients that are being treated for possible sexual abuse cases.

"We want our patients to feel safe during the exam. We want them to know that our Emergency Department has everything we need to treat them," Herring added.