This is what a sexual assault nurse wants you to know
Being sexually assaulted can be the scariest and most distressing time of a person’s life, and sometimes they need someone to offer comfort and a listening ear.
That’s among the things Samantha “Sam” Meyer does as a sexual assault nurse examiner at Aurora Medical Center in Manitowoc County, Wis. A nurse has to offer compassion, great bedside manner, sensitivity, honesty and respect.
“I saw a need for emotional and physical support for patients who have been sexually assaulted,” says Meyer, who is a 2019 Advocate Aurora Health Nurse of the Year. “I knew I could be giving even more of myself.”
From the intake process, to sitting with patients for hours, she makes it her personal mission to make every patient feel as relaxed as possible during a frightening and distressing time in their lives.
“Helping survivors begin to heal is essential in what I do,” Meyer says. “And making sure they feel safe and have their very own personal advocate is a big part of that.”
She offers some proactive tips for people who find themselves in vulnerable situations:
- Always make sure somebody you know knows your schedule or where you are going.
- Be aware of your surroundings. If you’re talking on your phone or have headphones on, you’re less likely to hear somebody walk or run up behind you.
- Always keep your keys and cellphone in each hand. Being prepared to strike and/or call the authorities is crucial.
- Glance over your shoulder periodically. If somebody is following you, cross to the opposite side of the street.
- If someone is indeed following you while walking, dip into the nearest store or gas station, or (if possible) confront another person walking on the street to ask for help. If neither is an option, act like your phone rang and loudly state your location. This will likely deter the follower.
- Don’t worry about seeming rude. If somebody is asking you for help at night while you are alone, there is a chance their intentions are not innocent, and going with that person or lingering to help could put you in danger.
- If you are out for a night of social fun, keep your drink in your hand at all times, and always be aware of it. Also, cover the top with your hand when you aren’t drinking it.
- If you’re driving and suspect somebody is following you, do not go home, which tells the stalker where you live. Drive around, and if the person continues to follow you, don’t be afraid of calling the police or driving directly to the police station.
- When you arrive at home, get out of your car and go immediately into your home. Stalling in your vehicle gives a watching person plenty of time to get in position to attack.
- Immediately upon arriving at home, lock your door and, if you arrive home at night, draw your blinds or curtains.
- Invest in a self-defense tool, like mace or a keychain alarm.
- Take a self-defense class, or at the very least, learn some self-defense techniques online.
- Lastly, be cautious of who you are with. Eight out of 10 sexual assault cases are committed by someone the survivor knew.
“Very few sexual assault cases are reported,” Meyer says. “If I could get one message across, it would be this: I see you, I believe you and I’m with you.”
About the Author
Brianna Wunsch, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator for Advocate Aurora Health with a BA in public affairs from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. In her free time, Brianna enjoys living an active lifestyle through biking, hiking and working out at the gym, but even more than that, she especially loves spending quality time with her two cats (Arthur and Loki), son and husband.