The new violence prevention space at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital.

New Care Model and Medical Space Offers Better Care for Victims of Violence

Oct 20 2021

For nearly 30 years, our forensic nursing program in Richmond, VA has expertly served victims of violence. This team specializes in serving victims of all ages who have experienced domestic violence, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, physical assault, strangulation, adult and pediatric abuse/neglect, substance-exposed infants, human trafficking and workplace violence.

What is the role of a forensic nurse?

  • Performs an evaluation of the victim and gathers any pertinent information about the assault.
  • Ensures that any findings are properly photographed, measured and documented.
  • Completes a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK), which is vital in gathering any potential evidence from a sexual assault to hold the offender accountable. (Patients can have a PERK completed without involving law enforcement if they wish.)
  • Completes an examination and captures imaging of injuries caused by strangulation that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
  • Testifies in court as an expert opinion during the judicial process. This presence in court is critical in holding perpetrators accountable and presents an opportunity for forensic nurses to serve patients long after discharge.

Our forensic nursing program in Richmond, VA has become one of the busiest forensic nursing programs in the country, responding to more than 2,400 calls for service each year. With this, the need for additional assistance to bridge the gap between the health care setting and community-based services has increased.

Established through grant funding in 2020, the Bon Secours Hospital Violence Intervention Program (BSHVIP) now works in partnership with the forensic nursing program to expand resources for victims of serious violence during and after hospitalization.

What is the role of a hospital violence intervention program advocate?

  • Provides an immediate response to victims of assault while they are in our care.
  • Gains the victim’s trust and provides education about traumatic effects of violence while the victim is in our care and more likely to be receptive to intervention.
  • Coordinates with medical staff and the victim to arrange follow-up strangulation and sexual assault exams at a time when the advocate can be present to offer guidance.
  • Provides referrals to community resources.

From January to August of 2021, our hospital violence intervention program advocates have served more than 400 victims. Of those 400-plus patients, some have anonymously expressed how this additional support from our advocates has been instrumental in their healing journey.

When asked what they would have done if the advocacy program did not exist, one patient states, “I think I would have felt so alone. I wouldn’t have known what to do or what steps to take.”

Another patient shares, “everyone was gentle, kind and thorough. Someone was always with me. I never had to sit alone.”

And when asked what they would have done if the advocacy program did not exist, one patient states that they “… probably wouldn’t be here.”

New medical space offers more care

Thanks to the generosity of local donors, victims of violence can now seek the specialized, compassionate care they need during one of the worst moments of their lives in a new violence prevention space at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital. This new space (see photo above) offers additional waiting and treatment rooms designed to create a calming environment for victims of violence and their families. It provides safety for victims in crisis in a beautifully designed space where our forensic nurses can collect crime evidence and our BSHVIP advocates can provide comfort and begin the process of healing.

“Violence is not a single locality issue,” Bonnie Price, administrative director for community health advocacy for Bon Secours Richmond, shares. “In the last few years, our team has served patients from more than 40 different cities, counties and towns. We are proud to offer victims of violence specialized care not only when they are in crisis, but also after they leave the hospital. This care model is critical to improving the success of these victims’ healing journeys.”

The Bon Secours Forensic Nursing Program can be reached 24/7 through our Emergency Departments in the Richmond, VA area, or by calling 804-281-8184 or 804-281-8574 during normal business hours.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, advocates are also available 24/7 via the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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