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ISP launches initiative to train 250 sexual assault nurse examiners

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IDAHO FALLS — With the prevalence of sexual assault and domestic violence in Idaho and nationwide, Idaho State Police are taking steps to try and get survivors of these situations more help.

This week Idaho State Police Forensic Services is at Eagle Gate College in Idaho Falls to provide training for nurses about how to better understand survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. The 40-hour training finishes Friday.

The Idaho Falls session is one of an eight-week long training campaign being presented throughout the Gem State as part of the SANE 250 Initiative. It’s an effort to train 250 SANE nurses in every corner of the state.

SANE stands for sexual assault nurse examiner. It’s a role held by nurses that allows them to work with victims, collect sexual assault evidence and know how to properly store it for law enforcement.

Deb Wetherelt has more than 40 years of nursing experience and is a SANE nurse and Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) coordinator. She trains nurses how to collect samples and how to best handle survivors in a sensitive way.

“Sexual assault is such a horrific trauma and it affects patients for their entire life and so how they are treated or how their medical care is provided right after that assault, also affects them for the rest of their life for good or not,” Wetherelt said.

During a lesson Wednesday, Wetherelt brought sexual assault evidence collection kits, swabs, envelopes and dummies for nurses to study and gain hands-on experience.

The nurses in this week’s class came from places like Pocatello, Twin Falls and Idaho Falls. Devin Bernal is a nurse who lives in Twin Falls and came to the training to better understand sexual assault.

“I think it’s important because it’s a very traumatic event that happens to these patients whereas it’s not something that we are seeing maybe everyday. There is such a need for it in the community,” she said.

Any medical personnel interested in this specific training, can contact the Idaho State Police Forensic Services lab in Meridian. Call (208) 884-7219 and ask for Deb Wetherelt.

“This training is helping start new local programs that provide uniform evidence collection and patient medical care regardless of how rural or remote the location,” said Matthew Gamette, Laboratory System Director for Idaho State Police Forensic Services.

For those who have experienced sexual assault and need resources, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area that best meets your needs.

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