Sexual Assault Program
National crime statistics show that more than 330,000 sexual assaults occur in Texas each year. Scott & White's Sexual Assault Program is a specially trained group of professionals who offer detailed physical examinations, evidence collection and expert testimony with care and compassion.
The Scott & White team has gained a reputation for consistency, professionalism and expertise not found anywhere else in Central Texas. Scott & White’s program is lauded by law enforcement officials, child advocacy groups and the courts. A thorough history, coupled with a methodical examination, helps team members gather evidence needed if the case were to go to court.
In addition to building a patient/caregiver relationship based on trust and compassion, these team members must go beyond their nurturing nature to provide expert testimony in criminal cases.
“It takes a strong personality,” said Pam Greene, M.D., who helped develop the program. “We are kind, gentle, compassionate people, and we show that demeanor with our patients. But we also want to be good witnesses in the courtroom.”
Working with a woman who has suffered at the hands of her spouse, or a child who was injured by a parent, are among the most heart-wrenching of the cases seen by the examiners.
“When you’re dealing with victims of sexual assault and abuse, or children who have suffered such trauma, it’s hard,” said Sexual Assault Program Coordinator Deborah Kleypas, R.N., a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) who performs more than 100 forensic evaluations a year. “But it’s going to keep happening. It’s not going away.”
While emotions and reactions are varied after a traumatic situation, Dr. Greene said parents and law enforcement officers are particularly concerned about bringing children in for an examination.
“They are fearful that it will be a traumatic experience,” Dr. Greene said. But nurses are able to calm those fears by making the child feel comfortable in a special clinic room, painted with a mural to make the area more appealing. They also work to establish a rapport with the child, which may mean playing with a stuffed animal or watching a favorite video before the examination.
“We work hard to help the child feel comfortable and at ease,” Dr. Greene said.
“It’s surprising to the parents, at the end of the examination, that it has not been an unpleasant experience for the child.” Dr. Greene adds that her team works closely with the Emergency Department.
Team members work closely not only with law enforcement but also with Child Protective Services, Families in Crisis and the Children’s Advocacy Center.
While the program’s professionals have offered testimony strong enough to convict offenders, they have also helped clear the names of the innocent. Part of the group’s mark of professionalism is its ability to gain the trust of a victim during the exam and evidence collection and to remain objective when reporting the facts.
“We are there to tell the truth,” Dr. Greene said. “The evidence and the jury will convict the guilty.”