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SD Recruits Certified Professionals to Help Sexual-Assault Victims

South Dakota's two metropolitan areas are separated by 350 miles, which leaves 80 percent of the state lacking trained medical personnel to handle sexual assault cases. (wmky.org)
South Dakota's two metropolitan areas are separated by 350 miles, which leaves 80 percent of the state lacking trained medical personnel to handle sexual assault cases. (wmky.org)
October 30, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota currently has only seven individuals who are certified to assist those who report a sexual assault, but a new training program has been launched to boost that number.

Those who are certified have completed the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE, program. Carrie Sanderson directs the state's Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment. She said a federal grant is allowing the center to partner with the South Dakota Department of Health to train additional examiners and design sexual assault evidence collection kits to be distributed statewide.

"For us to help the victims of sexual assault in our state, we need to have medical professionals who are trained to appropriately handle the scenario and the situation so you don't re-victimize the person when they come in,” Sanderson said.

Because South Dakota's two metropolitan areas are on either end of the state, certified examiners are currently near Sioux Falls or Rapid City, leaving sexual assault victims in the state's central, less populated areas with fewer resources.

In 2016, South Dakota enacted a law requiring that health care facilities notify law enforcement about the collection of a rape kit within 24 hours. According to Sanderson, the new program will provide a more uniform system for those trying to help victims.

"Throughout the central part of the state, we have counties that rapes are occurring in that maybe don't have a sexual assault exam kit in the entire county,” she said; “meaning law enforcement or the rural clinic or maybe even the emergency room isn't receiving sexual assault exam kits from the Department of Health."

Sanderson said having a team of trained professionals statewide is the ultimate goal.

"The SANE program will be open to nurses and medical professionals working in any community in South Dakota,” she said. “We do invite and hope that professionals from our Native American communities join and take advantage of the education."

Like many states, South Dakota's data on sexual assault is incomplete, but nationwide, it's been shown that Native American women and children suffer higher rates of sexual violence than any other group.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD