In 1996, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office instituted the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Project, in cooperation with 180 – Turning Lives Around and the Division of Criminal Justice in the Office of the Attorney General. It was the first program of it’s kind in New Jersey. The goals of this project were to:
- educate experienced registered nurses in providing state of the art physical and psychological support to adolescent and adult survivors of sexual assault
- develop a coordinated, multidisciplinary victim-centered approach to responding to individuals seeking assistance
- improve the quality of specimens and information collected for potential use in prosecuting those charged with sexual assault
The model project was deemed highly successful and was made a permanent program by then Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 1998. It was renamed the SANE/SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) program.
Today, all five hospitals located in Monmouth County are active partners in the SANE/SART program and offer access to SART services at their facilities. They are: Bayshore Community Hospital, CentraState Medical Center, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Monmouth Medical Center and Riverview Medical Center.
The program expanded in 2008 to include the evaluation of children age 12 and younger who had experienced a recent episode of sexual abuse. These children were initially provided forensic medical services at Jersey Shore University Medical Center located in Neptune, but may currently be seen at any of the participating hospital.
SANE/SART Response to Incidents of Sexual Assault
As soon as an incident of sexual assault or abuse is disclosed by a victim in Monmouth County, a team of highly trained individuals is made available to evaluate the situation and to respond to the needs of that victim and their family.
The Sexual Assault Response Team Consists of:
- A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – a Registered Nurse certified by the New Jersey Board of Nursing to provide comprehensive and compassionate health care to victims of sexual assault or abuse while ensuring that all potential evidence is collected in a timely and appropriate manner.
- A Confidential Sexual Violence Advocate – a community volunteer who has received extensive training in order to provide support throughout the interview, medical and forensic exam and beyond. These advocates are familiar with the entire reporting and treatment process, as well as the full range of resources and support services available throughout Monmouth County.
- A Law Enforcement Officer who has specialized training and experience in the area of sexual assault investigations.
The adolescent or adult victim has the choice to request services from any or all of the team members at the time of the incident or in the days and weeks following. Some people choose to talk with an advocate first and discuss options before deciding about a medical exam or making a police report. Others may go directly to a hospital or to a police station. There is no one correct way to deal with sexual violence and each member of the team is able to provide basic information about choices and options.
The care and evaluation of child victims is carefully coordinated to limit the number of persons discussing the details of the abuse with the child, and to ensure that all appropriate services for children and their families are provided in a timely manner.
Strangulation and Smothering Evaluation Team (SSET)
Episodes of Non-fatal strangulation- when a victim is “choked” by pressure being applied to their neck by the perpetrators hands or use of an object- are extremely dangerous. Although the victim may not always lose consciousness when strangled, the pressure on the neck can cause swelling, internal bleeding, neck muscle or throat damage. These symptoms can happen quickly or become worse over hours or days.
In more severe cases, the pressure on the neck can squeeze the blood vessels leading to artery damage, loss of consciousness and brain injury from lack of oxygen or clot formation.
It takes as little as 6-10 seconds of pressure on the neck to make someone pass out, 15 seconds to cause seizures, 30 seconds to cause loss of bladder and bowel control, and less than 45 seconds for serious brain injury to occur.
The Monmouth County SSET is comprised of Police Officers, EMS personnel, Domestic Violence Response Advocates and Forensic Nurse Examiners who work collaboratively with Emergency Department personnel at our 5 partner hospitals. The members of the SSET are trained to ensure the victim’s safety, evaluate them for strangulation-related trauma, document their injuries, and provide them with information and resources to aid them in filing for an Order of Protection and also identifying appropriate resources and support services after the incident.
Sexual Assault Statistics
- According to the “Violence Against Women” study, 82% of all reported sexual assaults were committed by a non-stranger, defined as an acquaintance, intimate partner or family member. (Violence Against Women, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995)
- A 1998 study by the Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control involving interviews of 8,000 adult women and 8,000 adult men found that:
- 1 in 6 women reported having experienced an attempted or completed rape.
- 83% of the women reported they were under 25 years old when the assault occurred; 54% said they were under 18.
- 1 in 23 men also reported experiencing a sexual assault victimization. (Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice, 1998)
- Youths age 12-17 are two to three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than adults. (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2000)
- During 2004 and 2005, an average of 200,000 individuals in the United States were victims of sexual assault. (National Crime Victims Survey, 2004, 2005)
- Only 16% of all rapes are reported to police, according to a National Victims Center report. (Rape in America: a Report to the Nation, National Victims Center, 1992)
- Over the past 3 years, the Monmouth County SANE/SART Program has been activated more than 140 times each year to provided services to adolescent and adult men and women reporting recent sexual assault victimization. (SANE/SART Annual Report, Monmouth County SANE/SART Program, 2004-2006)
If Someone You Know Has Been Raped or Sexually Abused:
Get them to a SAFE place, then:
- call 911, or
- go to your local police department, or
- call the Sexual Violence Hotline, or
- go to a local Emergency Department.
It is important to both mental and physical well being of the victim to get help quickly.
Ask the victim NOT TO eat, drink, shower or change clothing until they have been examined.
The Sexual Violence Hotline- (888) 264-7273 – is available 24 hours a day to provide you with information and assistance.
Myths and Facts About Sexual Assault
Myth: Sexual assault is about sexual desire.
Facts: While sexual acts are performed as part of the inappropriate behavior, Sexual Assault or Abuse is primarily about power and control. The person committing the assault or abuse makes a choice that what they want is more important than what the victim is willing or able to consent to.
Myth: Sexually violent or coercive acts by a stranger are a real crime; unwanted sexual advances by a friend, a date or an acquaintance isn’t really a crime.
Facts: Unwanted sexual contact, in any form, is a criminal act. Even when a child or teen seems to be a willing participant, in many situations the young person is not legally able to give consent, and those situations may be considered criminal acts as well.
Myth: Men who are sexually violated by other men are homosexuals.
Facts: When one man rapes another, the central issue is most often about power and/or humiliation, not sexual attraction.
Myth: When a person, says “No,” often s/he or means “Maybe.”
Facts: NO means NO; any type of sexual contact with a person who does not give permission, or who can not give permission, is a criminal act.
Myth: If your date is drunk or high, it’s okay to have sex with them so long as they don’t say “No”.
Facts: If a person is high or drunk they probably can’t give consent (even if they are not unconscious), so sex with them could be a crime. The best way to avoid problems is to talk about your relationship and intimacy while you are both sober, and then confirm your partner’s desire to be intimate before anything happens.
Myth: Women report rape to get revenge.
Facts: Rape is not a crime reported on a whim. Many victims DO NOT report because they are afraid of what others may say or think. They feel like what happened is their fault because they were drinking or they went someplace they had been ben warned could be dangerous. Some blame themselves because at one point they thought the offender was “cute” or “a nice guy” and was someone they might want to date. The fact is, it is far more likely for a victim NOT to report-to try to forget about it or act like it never happened- than it is for someone to make a false report about unwanted sexual contact.
A Special Word to Parents:
When the victim of sexual assault or abuse is a child or teenager, the emotional impact on the victim as well as the family can be severe. The assault is likely to cause powerful emotions for the parent: anger, sympathy, frustration, shame, and grief. While these feeling are understandable, your primary concern should be directed toward the wellbeing and recovery of your child.
The best response is to go slowly. Do not ask for too much too quickly. Remain calm. How sexual abuse will affect your child will depend in part upon your reaction. If you become upset and angry your child may think that they have done something wrong. If you react in a concerned, caring, supportive and loving manner, the child often feels more free to express feelings about what happened.
Reassure your child. Tell them that you are glad they told and that you believe them and will support them. Tell them that you know it is not their fault. While making it clear that the fault lies with the offender, be careful of “blaming someone”.
Blaming the victim or making threats of revenge against the offender are not productive and should be avoided. We want to emphasize that you should not hold yourself responsible for the assault or for failing to protect them. It is virtually impossible to create an environment in which the possibility of a sexual assault is completely eliminated. Instead of worrying about who is to blame for the incident, concentrate your energy on helping your child toward a complete physical and emotional recovery.
For some teenagers, the sexual assault may further complicate communication problems that often already exist between parents and their children. This may make it doubly difficult for them to speak with you about the assault and their reactions to it. Do notforce them to share with you or other family members the intimate details of the experience or their feelings about it.
Do let your child know that you are willing to listen if they want to talk. Listen with a nonjudgmental attitude. Take seriously your child’s concerns. Never dismiss them with a “Don’t worry” or “That’s silly”.
Teenagers should be encouraged to resume their normal lifestyle as soon as possible. Limiting your teen’s emerging independence by making decisions for them, or “grounding” them for not being sufficiently careful, may seem like punishment to them and should be avoided. It is important that their rights concerning dating, seeing friends, involvement in extracurricular events at school, as well as their responsibilities for household chores, remain the same.
If you have been a victim of sexual assault or abuse yourself, it may be difficult to separate feelings regarding your experience and that of your child. Professional counseling may be helpful.
Informational brochures about the SANE/SART Program are available for distribution to health care professionals, crisis counselors, teachers, students and others who would like to learn more about the program.
Speakers are also available to discuss primary prevention and related topics including forensic nursing, drug facilitated rape and risk reduction strategies.
For Further Information Contact:
Coordinator Forensic Nurse Program/SART
Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office