Until recently, if someone had asked me what it would mean to our community to keep a sane place in town, my response would have probably been some kind of smart aleck remark to the effect that I try to make it a habit to be completely insane; it renders offbalance those who intend me some sort of harm. It’s been my experience that even bad guys steer clear when you’re a little off your rocker.
So Sherrie Sigman’s e-mail regarding the SANE room being moved from Barrow Regional Medical Center caught me completely off guard. My first reaction was that if we have only one small room to house all the sane people in Barrow County, we’re done for. In actuality, Sherrie was asking whether I could help the Piedmont Rape Crisis Center (PRCC) by letting readers know that the SANE room was being moved to the PRCC house on East Broad Street near the Barrow County Annex (the old hospital, for you long timers). While PRCC has known the move was coming, they weren’t quite caught ready when they learned moving day was but 48 hours away.
If you haven’t already Googled the term, a SANE room is: an acronym for SexualAssault Nurse Examination, a SANE room is where victims of sexual assault are taken so they can be examined by a certified SANE professional to assess any injuries, presence of sexually transmitted diseases, or pregnancy the victim may have to face. The victim receives treatment, counseling and is started on a program of recovery that will help them in the days, weeks, months, and – for some – years following the traumatic episode to which they’ve been subjected.
We don’t like to think about these things happening in our community. We certainly don’t like to consider these things may be happening to someone we know.
It isn’t that we’re bad people for not facing up to the facts; it’s that we were brought up to believe that this kind of thing doesn’t happen in good families and nice towns. We rationalize that men and women who find themselves the victims of sexual assault – yes, men are victims, too – are lesser people who put themselves in harm’s way by associating with their aggressor. So how do we explain to the five-year-old child who will have a hard time trusting an adult like the one they think is no different than the one who hurt them? What do we say to our neighbor’s teenage daughter who was given a date rape drug by someone she and her parents trusted to keep her safe while she went on her first date? What are we doing to support a friend who has been traumatized by someone who was not violent, but who intimidated him or her into submission?
Not all sexual assault victims are the targets of rape or physical brutality. The victim of sexual assault may show up at the SANE room with what seems to be a hefty cache of resources that one would believe could keep him or her from becoming a victim, but they leave under a cloud of self-blame and guilt over something they may not have been able to prevent.
Sexual assault happens in two-parent homes – sometimes to one of the parents – and in oneparent homes. It happens to people with six figures in their checking account and to those who don’t know how they’ll pay for their next meal, much less their rent. It happens to people of all ages, races, religions, and educational backgrounds. It knows no boundaries except the ones a victim is able to rebuild following an incident. But that takes time and lots of support from the trusted friends and supporters.
In talking with Susan Cash, Executive Director of the Piedmont Rape Crisis Center, several things are important for you to know: 1. The SANE room serves victims from Barrow, Banks and Jackson Counties; 2. Though there are two certified SANE professionals, several more are needed to handle the case load; 3. Susan is a one-woman operation. If she’s not working with those being served, she’s trying to build the programs and services, including the funding; 4. The SANE room is available 24/7. They are looking for local partnerships to help provide some of the support needed once formal treatment has concluded.
Blake Watts, Administrator of Barrow Regional Medical Center, has pledged the hospital’s continued support for the SANE program, but your help is needed to assist these professionals in getting these victims back on the road to recovery. Your help in dollars and compassionate care are critical to this program’s success.
Someone you know may be next.
is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.