Rape treatment program expanding at MUSC

At least 40 patients have been taken to the SANE exam room opened at MUSC in May. (Scott Garrand/WCIV)

By Natalie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Specially trained nurses at MUSC now have more tools for treating rape victims.

The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program was launched in 2010 at MUSC where specially trained nurses respond to rape patients. Wednesday, program leaders revealed a special room for their patients.

"The new room we have here now is going to provide that sense of security, that comfort and safety that gives people who've been victimized the support they need to move forward," Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said.

The program coordinator Kathy Gil-Hopple says the program has been growing. She says this year they've seen a nearly 50 percent increase in patients.

When a rape victim arrives at the hospital, Gil-Hopple says a SANE nurse is paged and the victim is taken to the new room. The SANE program is now up to three full-time nurses and six on-call nurses. Their training includes an intensive week-long program with another educational component which is three to six months long.

Capturing evidence

The program's leaders are in the process of purchasing a new high quality camera to capture photographs of victims' injuries.

"We all know in this day in age, with the television shows that are out there, that juries are expecting to see some piece of evidence, not just testimony. It is critical for us to be able to corroborate anytime we can find any evidence of injury," Wilson said. "What's important to remember, and this is hard for people to wrap their brains around when we're talking about sexual assaults, is women's bodies are made to withstand a lot."

But when injuries are visible, Wilson says the new camera, estimated by Gil-Hopple to cost about $35,000, will help capture that evidence.

Gil-Hopple says it's the victims' choice to opt out of the photographs or even remain anonymous through the process of examination and treatment.

"Adults do not have to make a police report. They can have the same level of care provided to them with just having an anonymous kit collection done, and that gives them a year to decide whether they want to follow through and make that report," Gil-Hopple said.

She says after a year, if the victim does not move forward with prosecution, the evidence is destroyed.