ODESSA, Texas — Sexual assault and sex trafficking are problems most people should be familiar with, and they are certainly big issues in West Texas.
However, there is a program at Medical Center Hospital, or MCH, in Odessa that helps victims recover.
It is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program – or SANE – at MCH, and the program has grown over the years from one SANE nurse to six, with three more in training.
The staff help victims recover from sexual assault and sex trafficking in several ways.
“We are passionate to try to help as a team in this community to provide the best care we can for these victims," said Dr. Rebecca Diaz, SANE Medical Director at MCH.
Diaz has held that position for a decade, and the program is the only one in Odessa.
That makes it all the more valuable, as the SANE nurses say that West Texas is at high-risk for sexual assaults and sex trafficking due to the transient nature of the oil and gas business.
The program provides multiple services that the nurses want people to know about.
“We provide evidence collection, STD prevention, pregnancy prevention, things like that for the victims of sexual assault and sex trafficking," said Lisa Montoya, SANE nurse.
These issues can affect anyone, and with no signs of slowing down, MCH certainly would welcome growth in the program.
“So we really want to push education out there because it is a growing problem, and for every person that we can help, that’s a win in our book," said Jessica Aguilar, RN, SANE nurse. "So we push nurses to come train in the same program so we can help more girls whenever they’re ready to be helped.”
Knowing that these are sensitive issues to work through, the SANE program embraces the difficulties that that challenge presents and aims to make it comfortable for the victims en route to getting their life back on track.
“It’s a way that we can start empowering our patients again," said Diaz. "To start having that strength to recover from the abuse that they’ve gone through, and to start building their lives again and feel like their in control of themselves again, and so this is kind of the first step for them to feel like “I can start this again. I can start living again. I can be in control of my body. No one else is allowed to touch it or just do something to it that I don’t allow,” and we start that healing process here.”
Visiting with a SANE nurse is most effective within the first 120 hours after a sexual assault occurs due to evidence collection, but they also provide other resources to start the healing process such as counseling and support in potential court cases.
It is truly a group effort between the SANE program, the Crisis Center, Harmony Home, law enforcement and the community to help victims recover from sexual assault and sex trafficking.