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Jan. 8, 2019

New program brings best practices in sexual assault response to campus

Based on a recommendation from its Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Workgroup, Michigan State University is creating a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program that will offer 24-hour-a-day, first-response medical care to sexual assault survivors on campus.

The SANE program will be formed in tandem with the development of a new campus Sexual Assault Response Team, which aligns advocacy, medical, legal and educational services for survivors and ensures trauma-informed practices across service sectors. With this combined campus SANE-SART model, MSU will be able to implement national best practices in sexual assault response and better serve the community.

“We conducted a thorough review of programs and services for sexual assault survivors at MSU and concluded that there is no reliable option for post-assault medical support on campus,” said Rebecca Campbell, workgroup chair and psychology professor. “Although there is a SANE and a SART program in the greater Lansing area, they are difficult for MSU community members, particularly students, to access. Given the size of the student body and broader community, we need dedicated 24-hour on-campus programs.”

The development of a robust, sustainable SANE program takes substantial time and effort. All facets of post-assault care must be guided by trauma-informed practices, from ensuring proper training for nurses and developing a suitable SANE facility to creating policies, procedures and community partnerships. To that end, MSU hired forensic nursing consultant Jenifer Markowitz to lead the development of its SANE program. Once formed, the SANE program will be funded by state and federal grants.

“Dr. Markowitz is a highly experienced forensic nursing consultant who specializes in SANE program development,” Campbell said. “She has worked extensively at the national level, including with the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.”

To ensure the unique needs of the MSU community are considered in the development and implementation of the SANE program, the RVSM workgroup formed the SANE Advisory Board. The all-volunteer board will consist of students, faculty and staff as well as stakeholders from the greater Lansing area and state-level organizations.

Angie Povilaitis, staff attorney, and Amanda Thomashow, campus sexual assault coordinator, both of the Michigan Division of Victim Services, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, accepted invitations to serve as SANE Advisory Board members. The board will also include three at-large seats open to MSU community members and members of the public.

The development of a campus SART also will begin immediately to help foster the relationships and formal structures needed to support the university’s SANE program. The program will bring together partners from the MSU campus and surrounding community, such as the MSU Sexual Assault Program, MSU Police and the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance. The primary goals of the SART are to:

  • Develop collaborative relationships between campus partners that improve the quality of assistance provided to survivors.
  • Provide Title IX, criminal justice, medical and advocacy support.
  • Prevent and minimize re-traumatization of survivors.
  • Increase awareness of and provision of culturally sensitive services for survivors.
  • Increase perpetrator accountability while empowering survivors.
  • Increase utilization of sexual assault services.

The position of a full-time SART coordinator is funded by a grant that the MSU Sexual Assault Program received from the MDHHS Division of Victim Services. The role of the coordinator will be to elevate the needs and voices of survivors to collaborative campus and community partners.

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