"It Shatters Your Reality..."

By: Malorie Maddox, Jeff Olson Email
By: Malorie Maddox, Jeff Olson Email

It's a crime that rips away a person's sense of safety. We're talking about rape. When it happens, rape advocates step in to stand beside the victims in their darkest hour.

"Kate", a rape victim, recalls the crime she still carries with her today.

"Kate" says, "for a long time I would drive the streets of Omaha and if I would see a vehicle that reminded me of his vehicle I would start shaking."

It's this lingering pain, and shock of the crime, that leads the Women's Center for Advancement, or WCA, to keep Victim Advocates on staff. They have one English and one Spanish speaking advocate working 24 hours a day.

Sara Vanbrandwijk keeps her phone close by. She works as a victim advocate. It's a busy job--at all hours of the night.

Vanbrandwijk says, "I was on call for an 88-year-old woman when I got called to the hospital for a 13-year-old girl."

We followed Sara during an overnight shift.

"Some of the stuff that we see...it's just hard. Young girls, so innocent." says Vanbranwijk.

Vanbrandwijk works through the WCA. When she gets a call, she heads to the ER.

It's in the ER that she meets victims at their most vulnerable state.

Vanbrandwijk says, "I think the biggest part of walking into that room is making sure the woman feels in control."

It's a tough challenge because rape victims--of necessity--are put through a variety of exams. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE nurse, Anne Boatright works at Methodist Hospital.

She has worked with more than 60 victims. Like Vanbrandwijk, she meets patients in one of their toughest moments.

Boatright says, "It shatters your reality. It shatters your sense of safety."

SANE nurses at Methodist go through 40 hours of intensive training. They learn how to collect evidence and even get instruction on testifying should the victim press charges.

Nurse Boatright says, "We typically take care of a patient within 72 hours of an assault. We take care of patients 13-years or older."

The SANE program at Methodist also offers a private room in the back of the ER. It even has a shower so victims can clean up after the exam.

It was started after Heidi Wilke. Wilke, of Omaha, was attacked and raped following a business meeting in Downtown Omaha. Heidi and her husband decided to help other victims

The SANE program has done just that.

Nurse Boatright says, "Our role, number one, is to provide medical care for these patients. We are very compassionate to these victims."

Sara says it's this compassion she and the SANE nurses provide that help victims make it through the moment.

They also want them to leave the hospital knowing they are not to blame.

Vanbrandwijk says, "It has nothing to do with you. It doesn't define you. It's nothing you deserved or asked for."

The Victim Advocates also respond to domestic violence calls.

The WCA says 10,000 calls come in to their hotline and victim advocates every year.

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