Sane Nurses

The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) unit at the Choctaw Nation Health Care Center in Talihina, Oklahoma, provides immediate comprehensive care to sexual assault victims.

Sexual assault victims can receive SANE services at Talihina Health Care Center

By Shelia Kirven
March 1, 2023

The Choctaw Nation Health Care Center, Talihina, Oklahoma, offers services for victims of sexual assault through the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) unit certified through the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN).

The group’s purpose is to be there when someone is injured in a sexual assault.

According to Debra Dill, RN, BSN, MSN, MHA, SANE-4, LNHA, PRN-Nursing House Supervisor, the group formalized in 2008 is dedicated, good at what they do and particularly cautious about patient privacy.

All victims, tribal and non-tribal, from any location, from teenagers through end-of-life, can be seen.

There is no cost, and no appointment is needed.

“This is a service for victims of crime, so we service anybody who walks through the door,” said Dill.

Victims should be seen immediately, if possible, but can still be seen within two days after an assault or up to 120 hours later, dependent upon the SANE nurse’s judgment.

Victims with immediate health concerns are seen by emergency room staff first.

“Once we make sure they are okay medically, we can give them antibiotics that prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is a one-time dose, and then they are referred to go to their health department and follow up with their provider and get a full prescription. We give them immediate medications for STDs. We do have the morning-after pill in case they are afraid of being pregnant,” Dill said.

According to Dill, the staff ensures that the victim is not already pregnant.

Education and resource referrals for medical providers are also given, as well as referrals for housing, counseling and other programs to help with physical and emotional wellness.

If the victim wishes to file charges, information and evidence are released to law enforcement. Often, a police officer will be the first contact in the emergency room and even be the one who transports the individual to the hospital.

“By coming and having that exam, I think that helps a victim of violence feel safer and better because we can assure them this is not their fault, and they are okay medically. A lot of times they are afraid,” said Dill.

According to Dill, victims need to know that they can help keep others safe from their perpetrators and that telling their stories benefits their own health and emotional well-being.

“We have to understand when someone has been hurt, there is a certain thing they need from that caregiver, and that is mostly peace, compassion and caring.” Dill said. “We don’t try to influence in any way or guide how a person is thinking at that time. We are simply there to make sure they are okay, let them talk, and then try to help them.”

SANEs are available around the clock to do exams in Talihina.

If victims cannot travel there to be seen, they should report to an emergency room or contact a police officer.

Often, if the emergency room is within the local area and does not have an on-site SANE, the victim will be transported to Talihina, or a SANE will be called in.

According to Dill, many hospitals have victim’s advocacy centers approximately 45 miles apart in the Choctaw Nation service area. Advocates represent tribal, county and city agencies who work together and sometimes transport victims as needed to locations with SANE examiners.

“Our target is that a person does not have to travel very far to get this done. They have already been through so much, and we do not want to give them more trauma,” Dill explained.

Two Choctaw Nation SANE staff members are completing certifications to see pediatric clients at the Talihina hospital.

The first tribal Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) will soon be constructed in Hugo. The center will be open for children who need to be examined by a SANE nurse, be interviewed by counselors and/or police, and be a place where the victim can feel warm and safe.

SANE staff are looking forward to the opening of the CAC and have reached out to offer help with call coverage.

According to Dill, both units must complete the same training standards for adults and pediatrics.

“A CAC has processes they must follow in the care of a child victim of violence which supports the child’s best interest,” said Dill.

For more questions on the SANE unit, call Debbie Dill at 918-567-7000, ext. 6917. The Choctaw Nation Health Care Center is located at One Choctaw Way in Talihina, Oklahoma.