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Nov. 12, 2020

MSU opens first-ever sexual assault health care program

Free and confidential medical care is now available on the Michigan State University campus 24 hours a day to individuals who have experienced sexual assault and seek care within a five-day period. The MSU Sexual Assault Healthcare Program facilities are co-located with the MSU Center for Survivors in the Student Services Building at 556 E. Circle Drive.

The program, which is the first of its kind on campus, officially welcomed patients at 9 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 12, after a lengthy planning and collaborative process with area experts.

“The staff members at the Center for Survivors have been talking with community partners about the possibility of creating a community-based sexual assault nurse examiner program in the Lansing area for years,” said Tana Fedewa, director of the Center for Survivors at MSU. “When we became aware of an opportunity to partner with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the dream became a possibility.”

The university’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Workgroup recommended the university create such a trauma-informed, inclusive and accessible sexual assault health care program. MSU consulted with forensic nursing consultant Jenifer Markowitz and the International Association of Forensic Nurses, leading to development of a facility customized to the needs of sexual assault survivors and training for clinical staff in the national model for sexual assault patient care.

A statewide Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Advisory Board was formed and chaired by MSU professor of psychology Rebecca Campbell, who leads MSU’s RVSM workgroup and advises the president on RVSM matters.

“We are grateful so many survivors and advocates throughout Michigan participated in the planning process for this program,” Campbell said. “With their guidance, our program staff are ready to provide quality health care to survivors of all genders, survivors with disabilities, members of the LGBTQIA+ communities and survivors from different racial, ethnic and cultural groups.”

Architects and designers used guidance from Markowitz, the RVSM workgroup, the SANE Advisory Board and campus service providers to make the renovated space feel safe, welcoming and patient-centered.

“The Sexual Assault Healthcare Program suite is designed to provide care for one patient at a time,” Fedewa explained. “This program will first and foremost tend to the health and well-being of each person who seeks treatment.”

The waiting room offers comfortable seating and soft lighting. Adjacent to the examination room is a sitting room where the forensic nurse can meet with a patient to collect medical history prior to the exam. The examination room is a large suite with an attached bathroom for patients equipped with an accessible shower, toiletries, self-care items and replacement clothing.  

Program medical director Sameerah Shareef, a longtime nurse midwife in the Lansing area, will lead the nurses conducting the specialized exams. An MSU Center for Survivors care coordinator will train and supervise volunteer medical advocates, who will be available around the clock to provide critical support during an exam. Afterward, the care coordinator will connect patients to MSU and community resources and services.

The program is funded by a grant through the Victims of Crime Act.

For updates on the program, visit

By: Chris Chapman

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