Emergency and Trauma Care

Patients who have experienced assault, abuse or neglect require the specialized care of Riverside’s forensic nursing team, which consists of certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). Our forensic nurses have undergone specialty training to care for the physical, psychological and social needs of patients who have experienced violence, as well as training in physical evidence collection.

Many different types of patients utilize these services, including individuals who have experienced:

  • Sexual assault or rape
  • Domestic violence (including strangulation)
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Child or elder abuse or neglect
  •  Human trafficking

These nurses also have specialized training in the collection and handling of physical evidence that could be used in a court case if needed. Patients who are cared for by the forensic nursing team do not have to criminally report cases to receive care. But evidence is always collected in case the individuals decide later to pursue charges. Forensic nurses are also able to provide expert witness testimony in court.

How Quickly Do Patients Need to Seek Care?

Individuals are encouraged to seek care as soon as possible, as that is better for their health and to preserve any needed physical evidence. In cases of rape and / or sexual assault, medication to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is available, but some are only able to be given within 3 days (72 hours) of the assault.

Physical evidence collection usually occurs within 5 days (120 hours) of the assault, but patients are encouraged to seek care even if it has been longer than the standard timeframe so they can receive appropriate medical attention.

 What Patients Can Expect:

Patients receiving care from the forensic nursing team can anticipate a thorough and compassionate experience. The patient is in charge and can stop the exam at any time, as well as elect to skip parts of an exam. The forensic nurse will provide education at each step in the process to make sure the patient understands why each step is taken and its purpose.

Individuals are not required to report the incident to the police, and physical evidence can be collected and stored to be used later if an individual wants to take their time in making that decision.
Parts of the Exam (may vary based on the situation and type of assault):

  • A patient history which will include discussing the assault so the forensic nurse can provide appropriate care and to guide possible evidence collection.
  • A physical assessment, which can include evidence collection and preservation as well as the photographic documentation of injuries as needed.
  • A physical exam of the genitals and anus, which may include evidence collection and preservation as well as the photographic documentation of injuries as needed.
  • Treatment as needed for any injuries
  • Providing medication as needed to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), though some can only be given within 72 hours of the assault
  • Assessing, discussing and referrals to any needed resources such as counseling, support groups, legal support or Hand in Hand violence intervention
  • Careful identification, collection, packaging and chain of custody of all forensic evidence to preserve items for possible future use in court.
  • Note – in some cases the clothes the patient is wearing upon arrival to the emergency room are taken as physical evidence. Fear 2 Freedom partners with Riverside to provide Aftercare Kit to survivors of sexual assault which include basic clothing and toiletries. But, some patients prefer to have a friend or loved one bring them clothes from home.

Where are the Forensic Nurses Located?

Each Riverside emergency department has access to forensic nurse specialists, whether they are onsite already or are on call for the facility.
For more information, please call 757-594-3983.

Community Partnerships

Part of the forensic nursing role is to connect survivors to available resources in the community to aid in their recovery. Riverside partners with many community groups and organizations in the community to help survivors access support services. This can include family shelters, support groups, legal connections and other resources. Depending on the situation, some individuals may be connected with Riverside’s Hand in Hand program for violence prevention.