Sexual assault victims in the Sea-to-Sky corridor will no longer have to travel to Vancouver General Hospital for a sexual assault forensic exam, sometimes referred to as a “rape kit.” They can now go to Squamish General Hospital.
In December, Squamish public health nurse Nancy Skucas completed a course on how to administer the exam, which is done when evidence needs to be gathered for criminal prosecution. The training was well-worth the time, she says. (Offered twice a year, the course
includes an online module done over a few months as well as three days of hands-on training at BC Women’s Hospital.)
Nancy, however, says her role goes beyond the head-to-toe assessment and collecting of evidence such as paint chips, hair, fibres and DNA swabs. It’s also about providing emotional support and crisis intervention.
“I want to reduce the barriers of clients having to go down to the city for forensics. I want to maintain confidentiality, to provide choices and options to clients and hopefully return control to the client,” explains Nancy, who was recently profiled in a Squamish Chief news story
that details the exam process. That story also inspired the reporter to write an opinion piece
on the topic.
“But I am just one small piece of this project – clinical educators Kristine Good and Veronica Fincham were integral in figuring out all the fine details on how to make this happen. It’s also important to recognize the amazing work of the ED staff as they are the first contact for these clients.”
Forensic testing can be done up to seven days after the assault. Showering can eliminate some evidence, but the exam can still be done within that seven-day time frame.
Nancy, who previously worked at Raven Song Community Health Centre in Vancouver, has long had an interest in sexual assault programs. She also works for Options for Sexual Health and at Squamish’s SAFE clinic where she deals with sexual assaults.
“Although this work is challenging, these clients are very vulnerable and being able to provide choices and help them regain control is very rewarding,” says Nancy, who relocated to Squamish in 2013 for its recreational opportunities.
“I was also looking to work in a smaller community – as a public health nurse it’s important to know the client in the context of the community,” she adds.
Nancy is available to administer the exam Monday to Friday.
According to the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Survivors of sexual assault suffer in many ways:
- 62% are physically injured
- 9% are beaten severely
- 12% are threatened with a weapon
- 70% experience verbal threats.
- It could never happen to me: Anybody is potentially a sexual assault victim: people of every age, ethnic or cultural background, social class, religion, occupation, education level and physical description are assaulted
- Most sexual assaults occur as a ‘spur of the moment’ act, in a dark alley or car by a stranger: Most sexual assaults are planned and about 80 per cent are perpetrated by someone known to the victim in places such as the offender’s or victims home. Often the offender is a partner, husband, relative, friend, neighbor or other acquaintance.