The Victim Service Center operates the 24/7 Sexual Assault Crisis Hotline which not only serves victims, but also professionals in the community. Occasionally, we receive calls that require a Victim Advocate to provide services to both the victim and also first responders.
Following a sexual assault, a victim may not know where to go for help which may lead them to the nearest hospital emergency room where they are met by a nurse and hospital staff. Once the nurse becomes aware a sexual assault has occurred, the critical management of the victim’s care becomes the utmost importance. During this time, we will receive a call through our Crisis Hotline from hospital staff who may be uncertain of how to properly preserve forensic evidence, care for the patient’s emotional needs, and advise them on legal options. At this point, the VSC Team is alerted, and our Crisis Response Team steps in.
On one particular night, I received a call on the crisis hotline after an elderly woman disclosed to hospital staff that she had been the victim of a sexual assault. The nurse at the hospital was struggling with how to care for the patient. The nurse, who was nervous and eager to follow proper protocol, contacted the hotline with the victim nearby and asked if I would walk them both through the process of what to do next.
With careful consideration, I assisted the nurse by answering all questions and concerns, explaining the current forensic protocols, and assured them the victim would receive all the care she needed that evening. I then spoke with the victim directly and offered support. We talked about common feelings and reactions, options with regard to reporting to law enforcement, and what to expect for the rest of the evening. I assured the victim that I would be the person meeting her at our confidential site. The victim was relieved not to have to tell another person her story.
The victim then came to VSC’s confidential forensic exam site where I met her, along with our Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. On this night, I was called to assist not only the victim, but also a professional. The victim received forensic collection, a shower and a new change of clothes, provided safe transportation home and follow-up services.
The hotline helps many victims directly, but we are proud to be able to offer services and support to first responders as well. We are grateful that professionals in Central Florida recognize the importance of such a valuable resource, like the sexual assault hotline, where they can be connected and receive support from Victim Advocates highly trained to respond to sexual assault victims.