“Quality Healthcare Close to Home,” is the motto of the Community Memorial Hospital.
On Monday, September 25, a press conference at Hamilton’s Community Memorial Hospital officially announced the addition of five Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), making the slogan that much more meaningful.
Prior to this year’s implementation of the SANE program, survivors of sexual assault were required to travel 30 to 60 miles away from Hamilton to access SANE services. These services include STD/STI testing, advocate support, counseling and forensic medical examinations to collect and secure evidence, should a survivor choose to do so in order to later prosecute the perpetrator. The five inaugural SANE nurses underwent over 60 hours of training to qualify for the position.
Colgate students were integral in pushing the project forward, as well as Colgate Health Services provider Dr. Merrill Miller and Director of Haven and Colgate Counseling Center Dr. Dawn LaFrance. Colgate students took the issue to the Board of Trustees in 2015, which Miller explained initiated the process that resulted in the successful launch of the SANE program. The project was a collaboration between Colgate, Community Memorial Hospital and Liberty Resources.
Dr. Miller explained that this launch was the culmination of a conversation that has been going on for over a decade. Over the past 15 years, there have been three discussions about providing the services of local SANE nurses. However, each time these conversations ended due to the complexities and costs of the proposal, especially the additional challenges of bringing this resource to a more rural community.
Just about two years ago, Miller received a phone call from the then Dean of the College, Susie Nelson, about the meeting with the Board of Trustees at which students requested a SANE program at Community Memorial. She was told that it was time to make it happen, despite all costs and complications,
“Times change, goals change, people change. And issues surrounding sexual assault and caring for victims are now at the forefront of many people’s agenda,” Miller said.
Each person who spoke at the conference also reiterated that the SANE program will benefit not only Colgate students, but also everyone in the surrounding communities. It is available to students of Cazenovia College and Morrisville State, as well everyone else in Madison County. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, about one in five women and one in 71 men in the U.S. will experience sexual assault in their lifetime.
LaFrance thanked the “courageous Colgate students” who pushed the project forward and reiterated the importance of a trauma-informed and survivor-centric approach.
“We hope for a day when sexual violence ends. In the meantime, we aim to provide responsive services to those who are affected,” LaFrance said.
President and CEO of Community Memorial Hospital Sean Fadale feels that it is very significant that this program came from the student body and up through Colgate’s deans and Board of Trustees all the way to the hospital and Liberty Resources.
“This is a true demonstration of collaboration and this is a true example of how committed individuals across different organizations can get together and execute for success,” he said.
Senior Sarah McDaniel, a student leader of the Network, believes the SANE program is progress for Colgate.
“This is an important step for our community because it acknowledges that, unfortunately, sexual assault happens often enough that there is a need for SANE nurses here. It takes a step in the right direction in addressing such a critical issue in providing medical and psychological services for survivors. This allows survivors to regain power by having the option to use the rape kit in a legal or policy case, whether it be through the EGP or law enforcement,” McDaniel said.
Junior Kate Bussey, a student leader of The Network, felt that this was an important step forward for Colgate, but also believes there is much left to be done.
“I think that Colgate has made huge strides, as a community and an institution, in the past two years since I was a freshman. Tangibly, we have Haven and the SANE nurses and that helps the resources issue. There is still, and I think always will be, more that needs to happen but it’s important to count this as a step in the right direction,” Bussey said.
Bussey suggested some of these concrete steps.
“Other steps that need to be taken regarding rape, intimate partner violence and sexual assault on campus include: a reevaluation of Colgate’s EGP [Equity Grievance Process] process, possibly converting it to a third party system in a way that’s similar to Cornell, increasing staff and diversity at the already wonderful Counseling Center and also an investigation and evaluation on the part of the administration in an effort to acknowledge and remedy the disproportionate lack of attention given to survivors who are people color on this campus,” she said.
However, aside from concrete actions, both Bussey and McDaniel also feel it is important to acknowledge the more pervasive issues.
“More than anything though, we have a rape culture on this campus and we need to admit it and answer and solve the important questions: who is silenced and why? who feels emboldened to objectify who? and are the more frank and common conversations about rape and sexual assault on campus productive or just trendy?” Bussey said.
Madison County SANE services can be accessed at the Help Restore Hope Center’s hotline at 1-855-9NOWSAFE/1-855-966-9723, and in person at the Community Memorial Hospital emergency room, where the survivor will be taken to a private space within the hospital.
Advocates are available 24/7 to provide support for community members throughout the SANE exam and long-term.
Contact Sarah Anderson at [email protected]