WVU Medicine forensic nurse examiners promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Start by believing. This is what Meredith Linger, M.S.N., R.N., S.A.N.E.-A., S.A.N.E.-P., forensic nurse examiner coordinator at WVU Medicine J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital and WVU Medicine Children’s, wants everyone to do this Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).  WVU Medicine Forensic Nurse Examiners

Led by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, SAAM, recognized annually in April, calls attention to the widespread impact of sexual violence while raising awareness and educating communities on how to prevent it. 

“Sexual violence is a traumatic event that can impact every aspect of one’s life,” Linger explained. “Whether it be a single event or a series of events, sexual violence can negatively impact the physical, emotional, behavioral, financial, and spiritual well-being of an individual.  These impacts can be long-lasting and debilitating for a sexual assault survivor.”

One of the reasons the work of this specialized team is so important is because providing a trauma-informed response for assault victims decreases the risk of being retraumatized, which can occur when individuals are subjected to triggering factors.

The Ruby Memorial and Children’s Hospital Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE) teams in Morgantown see the most patients presenting acutely after a sexual assault in the state, while WVU Medicine Berkeley Medical Center and Jefferson Medical Center also have nursing teams, trained in the same manner, serving the Eastern Panhandle.

“Our team here provides 24/7 coverage for patients who have experienced violence,” Linger said. 

This coverage includes crisis intervention, referrals to advocacy centers, physical assessments, time-sensitive medical treatment, and, if appropriate, forensic evidence collection. 

Linger stresses anyone can support a sexual assault victim, and listening and believing are important first steps to helping.

“Allow the individual to have a safe space to open up and talk,” she said. “Provide them with options for resources and allow them to make a decision on their next step.”

If you or someone you know needs help, there are resources available. Contact your local rape crisis center or RAINN, national sexual assault hotline, visit the J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital Forensic Nurse Examiners Program webpage, or call 855-WVU-CARE, and ask to speak to Meredith Linger directly.