Playing the victim

A first-hand account of a forensic pelvic exam

I volunteered my vagina for the sake of sexual assault victims.

During Easter brunch, a friend of mine, a nurse at Bartlett Regional Hospital, said they were looking for volunteers for their Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner training. It would be so helpful, she said, to practice the examinations on a live model so they would be prepared to provide the best care possible when responding to an actual sexual assault.

“I’ll do it,” I said, without hesitation.

If you’re a woman, you may cringe. Going in for a pelvic exam, once an annual rite for women conscious of their health, is uncomfortable. Now we are suggested to go in only every two years.

I volunteered to undergo multiple pelvic exams — with an audience of training nurses — and I do not regret it in the slightest.

Participating in this training as a volunteer was educational for all involved, and knowing that I will have helped to make the experiences following a sexual assault easier on the victim is an honor.

I can report that the nurses, as well as the trainers, were very professional, kind and gentle.

While I was not an actual victim of sexual assault being examined, the nurses were instructed to treat me as such. They were communicative about what they would be doing, gentle with their actions and mindful to check if I felt any discomfort.

If I had reported discomfort, were I a victim, it could be indicative of genital injury, which could be used as evidence in prosecuting the hypothetical perpetrator.

A camera connected to a colposcope allows nurse examiners to visually document any injuries or other evidence.

Other evidence is collected during the exam as well.

The exam can be surprisingly quick, which would certainly be a positive for someone who had experienced a trauma like sexual assault. It was also a comfort to know that while one nurse examiner was performing the medical aspects of the exam, another nurse or other medical professional is there paying close attention to the patient’s body language and needs.

I know the nurses in training benefitted from having a hands-on experience with conducting a pelvic exam, and I feel confident that victims of sexual assault will benefit from having trained and certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners as part of Juneau’s Sexual Assault Response Team.

You’re in good hands, Juneau. Let’s continue to support this program.

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