Forensic Nurses Help Victims At Advocacy Center

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The Gila Family Advocacy Center is adding two Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).

"Thanks to financial assistance from the Mogollon Health Alliance and the Rim Country Rotary Club, these nurses are attending the SANE training through the National Forensic Nursing Institute in Flagstaff," said Christy Walton, GFAC program director.

The Center keeps the nurses' names anonymous for their protection, in case they end up testifying in court, Walton said.

The National Forensic Nursing Board requires 170 hours of training, including classroom instruction in forensics and trauma care and extensive clinical education on conducting the examinations.

The two nurses will obtain clinical experience at Scottsdale Healthcare's forensic nurse examiner unit.

Law enforcement and medical professionals simply do not have the specialized training necessary to collect medical evidence, meaning key evidence is often overlooked or spoiled, which unfortunately leads to fewer convictions, Walton said.

The testimony of a forensic nurse examiner contributed to the conviction of the "Baseline Killer," Mark Goudeau who recently received a 435-year sentence for sexual assaults on two sisters.

Victims of neglect and physical and sexual abuse that require a forensic medical exam, and do not need immediate medical attention, will no longer have to be transported to the Valley for such an exam.

Care from the forensic nurses will begin in a comfortable area where the nurse meets the patient to let them know what to expect.

In the examination room, the nurse then takes a detailed report on the assault to find out where to look for possible injuries or evidence and follows with a physical examination.

Evidence that might be overlooked in an emergency room will be collected and stored according to scientific and forensic standards.

GFAC serves Gila County. The center officially opened in April 2007 after two years of preparation.

In 2005, a planning grant was awarded to Time Out, Inc. who oversees the center.

GFAC provides specialized investigative and advocacy services to victims of abuse and neglect in a warm, friendly setting.

Collaboration with outside agencies, as well as coordinating professional training helps to enhance the investigative process.

The center offers community outreach to prevent victimization and stop the cycle of abuse.

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