Don’t you just love it when acronyms fit just perfectly? There are some that just don’t make sense, are hard to say or impossible to remember.

SANE & SAFE just work. Not in an obvious way, but close enough. All of this is good because I am spending most of this week and part of next traveling around with a great Navy nurse to provide education to providers.

SANE = Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
SAFE = Sexual Assault Forensic Exams

Perhaps you have seen that the US government (i.e. Department of Defense) has once again come under fire and is defending in a class action suit which is alleging that DoD is not taking appropriate action or responsibility in either prevention or providing proper care, support and action for those who are assault victims.

There is not one branch of the service that is completely free of problems. Because of Tailhook, the Navy started working on the issues a number of years ago. The Army started taking things more seriously starting in 2003 after the mess at Camp Udari along with problems at the Air Force Academy set off a series of complaints, reports in the open press (see Denver Post article of 16 Nov 2003 . Not seeing that they were getting any support from the military, service women (including those deployed) started calling stateside Rape Hot Lines.

I would like to think that over seven years later, everything had improved. That would be a false hood. There is still not consistent training and procedures across services. The Military Justice system has not changed. There are problems, but I don’t think the civilian side is any better. Many factors play into charges, trials and sentencing in both systems; there are individuals who seem to skate by in both systems. In the military it might be because of command deciding not to charge or offer an out in lieu of charges. In the civilian sector, it may well be that money protects or low status of victim means that charges are not brought. In neither case is justice always done. Standard delays in prosecution in both systems means that trials are not all that prompt (getting evidence processed and the discovery process takes time). Unfortunately in the military, it means that a change of venue may well happen with trial in Afghanistan for a crime committed in the States or vice versa. Obviously, that alone will affect the ability to conduct a trial.

So I am not claiming that the military is perfect. What I can say is that there are commands which take sexual harassment and assault seriously. They are willing to bring in an expert TDY to train examiners so that victims can be examined and treated rapidly, compassionately and professionally without being subject to unnecessary delays, exposure or relocation.  The system of advocates here in theater is running smoothly. We have cooperation between medical/legal/investigative services.

I can only wish I could believe that the providers we trained today and those attending the next couple of course will never need to put their new knowledge and skills to use.

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3 Responses to SANE & SAFE

  1. Carmen says:

    It is admirable that the military is actually trying. I think the way the budgets are being wacked around here, there won’t be any money in civilian budgets for ‘frivolities’ like rape prevention, rape victim exams, rape investigations or trials – along with all the other health and social services being de-funded.

  2. Brad says:

    While the CO at Vicenza I was certified as a SAFE.

    I did physical exams as my clinical work, and given the small size of the community and being male, I was the perfect person to examine the male of the incident, as I would be very unlikely to have treated them before.

    We were lucky with having a 24/7 on-call women’s health provider.

    We also agreed to take on anyone from Livorno, as the Host Nation response was pathetic.

    Luckily I never had to use it.

    We in the military are not perfect, but after talking to some women SANE’s, the civilian sector is very hit or miss.

    It takes a lot of emphasis from the top of the local law enforcement agency to include the prosecutors or it is just seen as a lot of work with little pay off.

  3. Pat says:

    There was a woman I went to high school with who joined the Navy back
    in the late 70s or 80s, and deployed on a ship somewhere in an ocean
    somewhere. She was a little butch in high school, but we never knew
    for sure. She dated guys sometimes in high school, so maybe, who
    knows. Then the news came. She had disappeared at sea, on calm seas,
    mysteriously, and no one knew anything about it. She just wasn’t there
    at morning check-in. The assumption was that she was helped overboard
    during the night. I remember her face, but not her name at the moment.

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