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Sullivan County FJC set to train a dozen nurses to handle sexual assault cases

Sullivan County set to train a dozen nurses to handle sexual assault cases

Our region is facing a shortage of nurses, trained to handle sexual assault cases.

Right now, in Northeast Tennessee, there are around half a dozen nurses called SANE's which stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. But the problem is they're all in Johnson City.

Now, advocates in Sullivan County are trying to change that. Leaders at the Sullivan County Family Justice Center will be training SANE nurses next week. And the training is intense. Nurses have to learn not only the medical and psychological parts, but the legal side as well.

Over the week-long course, they'll be hearing from the Sullivan County District Attorney, local law enforcement and the FBI.

72 hours - that's how long investigators have after a sex crime is committed to collect evidence. It's a race against the clock.

"We found out that there is not a single sexual assault nurse examiner at any of the three hospitals in Sullivan County," FJC director Karen Boyd said.

That means victims have to make the trip to Johnson City or wait for an emergency room doctor to help.

"It makes your stomach turn," Boyd said. "If you look at the TBI report, last year in Sullivan County, we had 268 sex crimes."

Once a crime is reported, it's the job of the SANE nurse to collect evidence from victims at their most vulnerable time.

"If it's not done properly, it can be very painful for the child and we don't want to traumatize the child again," Children's Advocacy Center executive director Gena Frye said.

The CAC sees an average of 40 abuse cases every month in Sullivan County. So advocates are excited their call for help is finally being answered.

"Our local hospitals received letters from the district attorney about the need for sexual assault nurse examiners," Boyd said. "And [they] immediately said we will send nurses."

SANE nurses can also be called to testify in court. Advocates said they are vital in each case, and they may be the key to getting justice for victims.

"This is really going to make an immediate difference in our community," Boyd said. "And it's really something for people in Sullivan County to be proud of."

The training is a joint-effort with ETSU. The Sullivan County FJC is planning to hold more trainings through the year.

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