Opinion: Calif. also has good sexual assault nurse examiner program

This is related to Gaen Murphree’s article on the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program and specialist at Middlebury College and Porter Hospital (Addison Independent, Aug. 25).
I heard the reporter on VPR this morning, commenting on whether or not this program was unique in the U.S., as it may be unique in Vermont.
There is an amazing program called Stuart House based in Santa Monica, Calif., that serves children who have been the victims of sexual abuse. It was a pioneer in the late 1980s, and I worked as a volunteer from 1988-1990.
The program is designed to provide legal services with an on-site DA, police and social worker so that children can be interviewed in a more supportive atmosphere, with one-way glass so that child victims don’t have to tell their story multiple times in a “scary” institutional setting.
They have a special team at Santa Monica Hospital that collected the forensics. If it seems difficult to collect evidence from an adult victim, it is even more fraught when you’re dealing with a young child — often when the perpetrator was a family member.
However, and equally important, the upstairs is devoted to specialist therapists. These children are likely to be in therapy for many years, regardless of the legal case against the perpetrators.
As a volunteer, my “job” was to play with the children. Some were catatonic, some were withdrawn, some seemed normal. I was never meant to discuss the trauma, just try put the children at ease in a relaxed setting with stuffed animals, toys and a safe environment.
Nancy Heatley

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