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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Benefis SANE program

Posted at 4:19 PM, Apr 16, 2024

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program at Benefis Health System in Great Falls has been helping sexual assault survivors since 2016.

The sexual assault coordinator with the SANE program at Benefis, Tia Kuntz, explained the program and how they help victims of sexual assault.

“I’ve been with the SANE program for the last five years, and we currently now have 7 nurses on. Essentially, when a patient comes into the [emergency department] or presents with law enforcement for concerns of a sexual assault, we then get consulted, come in and help the patient through reporting if that's what they want to do or just general emergency care for them,” said Kuntz.

The SANE program at Benefis takes extra measures to ensure the process is as safe and comfortable as possible for each patient.

“They’ll first be seen as an emergency department patient; we make sure that they don't have any life-threatening injuries, things like that,” said Kuntz. “At that point, the nurse will come in, we'll talk about STD Prophylaxis, things like that, as well as the option to report. If they do decide that they want to report, we then will collect the kit for evidence collection, and we will help them report to the police. They'll present here to the emergency department as well. We just kind of become a helping hand to them through the reporting process.”

There isn’t an age range for individuals affected by sexual assault; Men and women of all ages are affected by this issue.

While the number of sexual assault cases has decreased in some areas in the last few years, the issue is still very prevalent. It’s important for the community to be aware and learn how to help put a stop to it.

“Last week, we had a big conference that was open for child sexual abuse and just child abuse in general. Being able to attend those, gain your knowledge, increase awareness that this, unfortunately, is a thing, and just seeing what you can do to help stop it,” Kuntz said. “It's important just to, you know, raise awareness year-round. This is something that unfortunately is prevalent and is a concern in our community and I think it's something that needs more awareness community wide.”

The SANE nurses take extra measures to ensure the process is as safe and comfortable as possible for each patient. They have a private room and examination room with restricted access, as well as a private bathroom and shower.

The medical team within the SANE program is working to help survivors of sexual assault work through their trauma.