Applause could be heard throughout UF Health Shands Hospital on Wednesday morning as the ribbon was cut for the opening of the hospital’s new Sexual Assault Nurse Examination room.
The room is meant to provide a quiet, safe place for victims of sexual assault to be examined, and to reduce the time they have to be at the hospital.
After going through a traumatic experience like sexual assault, the normal emergency room can be uncomfortable to be examined in, said Jennifer Lalonde, Shands’ emergency room clinical leader.
“It is better to have a place inside the emergency department where you have more resources for survivors,” she said. “If they come in, [this is] where we can do the collection of forensic evidence in a private area.”
One in six women reported being raped at some point in their lives, and one in five men is victimized by sexual violence other than rape, according to the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence.
Ways to help victims include providing a safe environment, “allowing them to feel that they are being believed, and follow[ing] up on that support as they go through a horrific process,” Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said at Wednesday’s opening.
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office has been advocating for the opening of the room because it helps reinforce privacy and support for the victims, Darnell said.
The project took about two years to complete and was, in part, funded by the county, which provided $32,000. (Lalonde said she didn’t immediately know the total costs.)
“It’s important that we destigmatize our victims because our victims need to be placed first,” Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell said at the opening. “And that’s what this room does.”