Kimberly Hansen is one of those unsung heroes who can support a child, a teen or an adult who has been sexually assaulted as they work to get their lives back on track. (Curtis Michaels Photo)
Victims of domestic abuse have been going to the Roswell Refuge to get help for decades. Now they offer safety of another sort.
Victims of sexual assault are now encouraged to go to the Roswell Refuge to take advantage of the SANE program. SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. The SANE nurses do more than simply process rape kits, though that is a part of their work.
Kimberly Hansen, the SANE nurse in charge of the local program, explained the in-depth training necessary to do this work.
“These are specially trained nurses that take 64 hours of didactic classroom training,” Hansen said. “They then do approximately 10 vaginal exams, or they do a genital skills lab. After they complete that they then work with an experienced SANE until both the new nurse and the experienced SANE think they’re ready to do the work. For some, it might take five times, for others it might take 20.”
The need for Hansen and her peers is very real.
“We have two now,” Hansen said. “One of our nurses just went back to school. We’re waiting for a new nurse to come in. Roswell averages five sexual assault exams per month. November was a bad month for us, I think we had 14 exams that month.”
Hansen and her crew cover more than just Roswell, however.
“I do the child exams for Eddy and Chaves County,” Hansen said. “For adults, Carlsbad does (its) own exams, and we cover Artesia and Roswell. Child exams are different. They can be acute, meaning contact has happened within the last 72 hours, or they can be delayed, and that’s usually somebody who has been groomed and has been molested for a long time, and then finally something helps them report.”
Just as there is more to SANE services than getting a rape kit processed, Hansen works with law enforcement after the fact.
[auth] “When I go to court I am there to explain what the child, adolescent or adult went through,” Hansen said. “People often have preconceived ideas of what sexual assault looks like, and how someone should act. Over 50 percent of (adult victims) are assaulted by somebody they know. In domestic violence it’s 80 percent (of victims) and in children it’s 90 percent. We talk about stranger danger, but that’s less than 10 percent of the kids that are molested.”
One of the most destructive myths about sexual assault is the lie that it is about sexual attraction.
“When someone is sexually assaulted we still hear ‘why did somebody rape them?’ Rape isn’t about attraction, it’s about power,” Hansen said. “I’ve done a couple of classes where I said, ‘I want you to imagine your celebrity crush walking out here in a bikini strutting around. By a show of hands, how many of you cannot keep yourselves from rushing up here and forcing them to have sex.’ They generally ask what I mean by that. They don’t get it. And I tell them, ‘Surely, if they’re dressed provocatively, you won’t be able to stop yourself,’ then the light dawns.”
If a victim does not want to go to the authorities, Hansen and the other SANE nurses can still help them.
“With adults we can do the exam whether or not they want police involvement,” Hansen said. “So we don’t have to call the cops. I’ve had people say they didn’t want the cops called because they’ve done drugs or they’re on probation. So they can come and we can give them meds to prevent STDs and meds to prevent pregnancies, and we can get them into counseling if they want it so they can still get medical care and be safe.”
There is a window of time they must work within for the exams to be most effective.
“For the exams, for adults, we have a five-day window to do exams for meds and collecting evidence,” Hansen said. “We have a full exam. This is usually for someone who is working with law enforcement. We get a consent form signed, we get a brief account of what happened to them and a brief medical history. We look them over head to toe. We swab for evidence. We document injuries. We want to make sure they’re medically stable. We give them medicines that prevent STDs and pregnancies if they want. They have a legal right to decline any.”
Their help goes beyond the initial exam and medicines.
“We have an advocate who works with us,” Hansen said. “She works with getting them emotional support, and checks with them a couple of days later to see if she can help them get into counseling.”
When an adult does not want to involve law enforcement the process isn’t all that different.
“We have a non-reported exam that’s exactly the same,” Hansen said. “These are for people who are not ready to report to the police, but they don’t want to lose evidence. So, if the perpetrator was in law enforcement or somebody with a high profile in the community and they’re afraid of retribution or they have to get somewhere safe before they do it, we can do that and we put it under a non-reported number.
“Our law enforcement has been really great about accepting those. They’ll keep it for up to a year, so they have a year to decide if they’re going to come back. If they do then they come in and sign a consent form and I release the name to law enforcement so they can pull the evidence kit. For children, we do testing instead of treating for STDs, for adults we treat prophylactically.”
Hansen works closely with Cindy Wilson, director of the Roswell Refuge, and the staff to raise awareness in a number of ways. Considering the gravity of the subject, they try to do things to balance their work lives when they can.
“We’re doing the ’70s dance,” Hansen said. “It’s our annual fundraiser. We chose a ’70s theme this year partly because it’s fun, but also because the refuge started in the ’70s and SANE started in the ’70s, not here but nationally. We wanted to have fun, we want people to enjoy themselves.”
The dance will be April 7, from 6-10 p.m. at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center, 912 N. Main St. Entertainment is provided by local musicians Matt and Sharon Larsen and their band.
“The band is called Retrofit,” Hansen said. “We’ll have a dance contest. We’ll have a costume contest. We’ll have Badlands Barbecue. We’ll have some really cool desserts. We’ll have a silent auction. We’ve had some really generous people donate for the auction. Inn of the Mountain Gods gave us a free night. Ray’s Galactic Motors gave us a pickup. We have a poster from Star Wars with Kenny Baker and Carrie Fisher’s autographs. We’ve got a cruise. We’ve got quite a few items in a variety of price ranges.”
Tickets are $25 individually or a table of eight can be reserved at $20.40 per ticket. They can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com/event/2756082. The link is on the Refuge’s Facebook page. You can also call the refuge at 624-3222. Credit cards are accepted.
This year’s dance promises to be fantastic thanks to some dedicated people.
“We’ve got a wonderful board member, Kelly Smith and one of our SANE nurses, Debra Swain, they really helped bring this together, Wilson said.”
Almost two weeks later, the refuge will have Business After Hours at their shelter, 1306 W. College Blvd.
“We’re hosting business after hours at the shelter,” Wilson said. “No clients will be present. We’re trying to fix it up because the shelter is 30 years old. Imagine a family living there continually, you’re going to see wear and tear. I have brand new tile, but I have nobody to rip up the old stuff and lay it. We’ve got a bid for re-doing the kitchen. It’ll have to be a little at a time.
“I’ll need restaurants to help. Part of this is to satisfy curiosity. But it is also to let the business community see what the shelter is and how they can help. At one time, long long ago, businesses each took a room and they redid it and we had plaques up there. I’d really love to do that again.
“This is on April 20. We ask people don’t pull out cellphones, don’t take pictures. The Roswell Flautist ensemble will be there, and two of the board members will cook.”
The Refuge and SANE nurses are reaching out to the community with education in mind as well.
“We got permission to do a public viewing of the movie The Hunting Ground,” Hansen said. “We’re doing it for free. This is not for young children. But we would really like to get any high school senior ready to go to college.
“It’s a documentary by three young ladies who were all victims of sexual assault and how they were treated by the universities. They started looking into what they could do, and found Title Nine, and then they started getting stories from other people across the country.”
They found the help they needed in a law written for college sports.
“Title nine is usually used in reference to sports,” Hansen said. “The idea that if you have a football team for boys, you have to have one for girls. They have to have equality. Well, under title nine they have the right to get help for sexual assault and they cannot be discriminated against.”
Wilson is proud to have the SANE nurses on board.
“I have a great staff here at the refuge,” Wilson said. “But I could never do what the SANE nurses do. I’ll advocate for them any time. I don’t know how they do it except there are levels of commitment and these ladies are fully committed. The forensic information found by these nurses have lead to a number of convictions.”
Wilson wants everyone to understand that sexual assault is a bigger issue than most people think, and no victim has to be alone.
“Don’t think sexual assault doesn’t happen in Roswell, it does,” Wilson said. “The crisis line phone number is 627-8361, call any time. We want to thank the city. They partnered with us. Sexual assault victims are welcome to the shelter any time. Also we want to thank the Coalition for Sexual Assault.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.