Advocates want sex assault nurses staffing hospitals 24/7

Only two Milwaukee area hospitals are staffed with nurses specializing in sexual assault treatment 24 hours a day, and victims say every hospital should have these nurses available all the time. Over 3,000 people have signed an online petition demanding Milwaukee area hospitals stop turning away victims of sexual assault, but hospitals say they are prepared to treat victims of sexual assault, while acknowledging that not all of them specialize in this kind of care.

The two hospitals staffed with these nurses specializing in sexual assault care all the time are Aurora Sinai in Milwaukee, and Aurora West Allis. These nurses are knows as SANE nurses, or sexual assault nurse examiners, and people like Michelle Stander-Reimer are making it their mission to get these nurses into all area hospitals, all the time.

Stander-Reimer was the organizer of Slut Walk Milwaukee, an event held over the summer to raise awareness on "victim-blaming," and now, they're turning their attention to the online petition focusing on making more SANE nurses available to victims. "If you are raped, they can administer a rape kit, but also, work with you in terms of your physical needs and your emotional needs," Stander-Reimer said.

That online petition says victims are often "turned away" from hospitals not fully staffed with these SANE nurses, but that's not entirely true. Wheaton Franciscan says they treat injuries of rape victims, and can collect evidence with a rape kit, but they do recommend going to a sexual assault treatment center for further treatment, which is the same policy at Columbia St. Mary's. The only hospital that says it does not have rape kits is Froedtert, which says they treat injuries, but victims are transported to a sexual assault treatment center.

Debbie Donovan is a SANE nurse at Aurora Sinai, and while she says having a SANE nurse at every hospital all the time would be idea, she's not sure it is practical. "It's not something that someone can exist as a SANE nurse in isolation. It's really something that has to be well-developed. We have standards and protocols," Donovan said.