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Training gives nurses tools to help sexual assault survivors

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Posted at 5:38 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 19:42:08-04

HELENA — At Helena College this week, nurses from across Montana participated in training to better address the needs of sexual assault patients.

“The stigma’s going away. Sexual assault is not something you ask for, or you were in the wrong place, or whatever. It’s a violent, nasty crime, and I’m glad we’re recognizing that,” says Becky DeBoer, a nurse from Dillon.

The Montana Department of Justice utilized grants in order to help provide SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) clinical training to Montana nurses.



The program trains nurses to provide sexual assault survivors with access to trauma-informed care through a medical exam. Before the in-person training, nurses participated in a 40-hour online training. The team is on a statewide tour visiting not only Helena but Missoula, Kalispell, and Bozeman.

The exam itself is important for criminal investigations and prosecutions of sexual assault crimes. This program aims to provide more resources to address systemic sexual assault response challenges to rural communities, which the Montana Department of Justice says are disproportionately affected.

“We just know that there’s victims in all communities. And they really need to have the care that they can receive from a trained sexual assault nurse in their communities,” says Forensic Nurse Coordinator at St. Peter’s Health, Whitney Brothers.

DeBoer has worked in sexual assault nursing since 2007 and was at the in-person training to refresh her knowledge. For years DeBoer has been the only 24/7 on-call sexual assault nurse in Beaverhead and Madison Counties. There are two more nurses training with this same program to help provide these services.

“It’s important that we start these people healing. And we are the first part of that, making them feel that they’re okay, that it’s going to be okay, that, you know, I’m the mom of the bunch and I want my patients to feel like they can survive this and go on and do wonderful things if they want to,” says DeBoer.