Technology Supports Sexual Assault Victims in Remote Locations

By Capt. Jan Manary, Medical Program manager for Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations (SAFE), U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

29 Palms team
Members of the Naval Hospital Twenty-Nine Palms sexual assault prevention team with members from American Doctors Online, MA Dept of Public Health, Navy, and Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime. (Photo courtesy of Capt. Janice Manary)

The revised BUMED Instruction 6310.11 signed May 2, 2013 will establish the capability to conduct SAFE at shore and operational commands. 

Understanding the access to medical forensic expertise is not uniformly available. Navy Medicine has partnered with the Department of Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime and the Massachusetts Department of Health to bring tele-health consultative support to health care providers caring for victims of sexual assault at Naval Hospital (NH) Twenty -Nine Palms, Calif., the Navy site selected to participate in the pilot project.

Currently SAFE is not conducted on site. Victims who present for care are referred to a civilian hospital 60-90 minutes away. Participation in this study will support Navy Medicine West’s implementation of SAFE capability, enhance support to providers completing SAFE on site, and improve access to this level of care for victims of SA. 

On May 20-21, 2013, Naval Hospital (NH) Twenty -Nine Palms Commanding Officer, Capt. Jay Sourbeer’s leadership team and SAPR staff hosted a site visit to begin planning implementation of the pilot program. Subject matter experts representing legal, Navy Criminal Investigation Services, patient advocacy and information technology met with the pilot partners to begin the work of bringing 24 hour tele-health consultative services to providers who will be caring for SA victims. A team of SA Nurse Examiners in Boston, Mass. will provide 24 hour consultation via remote tele-health access. Participation in this pilot will bring the capability to provide Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations (SAFE) to Twenty-Nine Palms enhancing the care to victims of SA while also providing support and consultation to health care providers not accustomed to caring for SA victims in the numbers as seen in larger metropolitan areas. 

Consultative support is expected to be operational by Oct. 1, 2013. Pilot partners will be working with on-site clinical, administrative and advocacy staff to conduct training, establish protocols and ensure technology support installation and testing.

Chris Murphy, PhD, RN, program manager, National SA Tele-Nursing, MDPH stated, “the novelty of this project brings with it challenges this team is committed to overcoming.”   To this, Capt. Cynthia Gantt, executive officer, Naval Hospital Twenty-Nine Palms, responded, “novelty + challenges = innovation.”   

This is an example of innovation Navy Medicine is leveraging to ensure care is available to our Sailors and Marines.

For help and support in dealing with a sexual assault, resources are available through:

Safe Helpline (for service members):

●   Visit safehelpline.org to receive live, one-on-one confidential help with trained professionals through a secure instant-messaging format.

●   Call 1-877-995-5247 to speak with Safe Helpline staff for personalized advice and support.

●   Text your location to 55247 inside the United States or 202-470-5546 outside of the United States to receive automated contact information for the sexual assault response coordinator at your installation or base. A sexual assault victim advocate may be assigned to assist you.

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network:

●   Visit https://ohl.rainn.org/online/ for free, confidential and secure help that is just a click away.

●   Call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) to speak with trained, professional counselors for advice or support.