Mobile kits ease examination of sexual assualt

By Clarence Plank: PNT staff writer

Sex crime victims in the region no longer have one indignity — the sometimes long drives to the nearest hospital.

A new mobile examination kit now in use by Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) of Eastern New Mexico enables nurses to travel to victims.

The mobile kit has everything a nurse examiner needs to gather evidence at the scene of a sex crime.

“This is very much a victim centered approach,” SANE Administrator Amber Hamilton said. “We feel this approach is what is best for the victim … in the sense of after a sexual assault, to ask them to drive 80-90 miles one way to come to either the Clovis or Portales hospital to conduct the exam and then drive back home.”

A nurse can go to the victim and help maintain their comfort.

“By the time we get there they have already been seen by the physician and are ready for the SANE exam,” Hamilton said.

The mobile kit is about the size of a suitcase. It holds a digital camera, specialized lenses, filters and an alternative light source. It also comes with a sexual assault evidence kit necessary for obtaining criminal evidence admissible in court.

“It has a bleach solution we use to completely sterilize the area before we start to conduct the examination,” Hamilton said. “This way there is no chance of cross contamination. A lot of times we are able to collect DNA from forensic evidence via swab from the victim. The swab dryer helps us to dry the swabs before we package them to help maintain the integrity of our evidence, Hamilton said.”

The need has grown beyond Curry and Roosevelt counties now and they have received calls for SANE in Quay and De Baca counties as well.

Tawnya Burton, clinical coordinator and a SANE nurse, said the kit enables examiners to have all the proper equipment to take care of a victim of sexual assault.

“Sometimes you don’t have the equipment put together, or often times the facility doesn’t have the necessary equipment.” Burton said. “It not only helps the victims when we can come to them, but it also helps the nurses to practice quality care. It is really important to care for these people and there is a high expectation for us to do our job.”

SANE has been in existence since 2004 and has been helping sexual assault victims in Roosevelt and Curry counties. They currently have five nurses on staff and are looking at ways to add two more in the near future.

The Lions Club of Portales has been helped fund a SANE sexual assault crisis hotline for Curry, Roosevelt, Quay and De Baca counties: 226-SANE

“I can tell you in the first few days we had several calls,” Burton said. “I think it is going to prove beneficial to our community