Editor’s note: Cheri Will was a Beebe Healthcare team member for over 20 years. While working in the emergency department, she helped develop Beebe’s Sane/Domestic Violence program in 1998. Cheri passed away on April 21.
About one in three women and one in four men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual violence is a major health concern in the United States and worldwide, but in 2019 there are many resources for victims and families.
Sexual violence usually occurs in private, but like all crimes, it impacts victims and entire communities.
In Delaware, there is a coordinated response to assisting victims of sexual violence. The medical community has embraced forensic nurse programs in all three Delaware counties. There is a statewide advocacy program to assist victims of sexual violence. Law enforcement receives the most up-to-date information for solving these crimes, and sexual violence cases are given to experienced detectives. Prosecutors and the deputy attorney general are specifically assigned these types of cases in Superior Court.
Beebe Healthcare was the second hospital in the state to have a forensic nurse program; it started in 1998. Conviction rates have greatly improved due to evidence collected, the chain of custody maintained, and excellent court testimony. In 1999, Delaware’s forensic nurses received pediatric evidence collection education hosted by then-Attorney General Jane Brady and Beebe.
Sexual violence continues to be addressed by federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Justice, prevention strategists like the CDC, advocacy groups such as the National Sexual Violence Research Center, and forensic science specialists.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual violence can negatively impact one’s physical and mental health, which can result in an increased risk of depression, anxiety, suicidal behavior, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and gynecologic or pregnancy complications.
The best way to assist a victim of sexual violence is to listen to their needs, know where to find resources, and educate oneself.
Best practices from the CDC:
· Promote social norms that protect against violence
· Teach skills to prevent sexual violence
· Provide opportunities to empower and support girls and women
· Create protective environments
· Support victims and survivors to lessen harm
· For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/
Other resources include:
· Contact Lifeline, rape crisis, call 800 761-9800.
· YWCA Sexual Assault Resource Center 800-773-8570
· Delaware State Police Victims Center 800-842-8461
· Rape Abuse & Incest National Network 800-656-HOPE (4673)
· 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline (Kent & Sussex) 302-422-8058
· Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-292-9582
If you feel you are in danger, call 911.