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Michigan State University

Providing Health Care for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Providing Health Care for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Providing Health Care for Survivors of Sexual Assault

A new innovative space opening at Michigan State this fall will offer 24-hour-a-day medical care to individuals who have experienced sexual assault.

With increased safety measures in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MSU, is opening its Sexual Assault Healthcare Program on the second floor of the Student Services building. The new facilities demonstrate how a physical space can be designed to maintain a welcoming, supportive and healing environment.

“The staff members at the Center for Survivors have been talking with community partners about the possibility of creating a community-based Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program in the Lansing area for years,” said Tana Fedewa, director of the Center for Survivors at MSU. “When we became aware of an opportunity to partner with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and MSU, the dream became a possibility.” 

It was the experts on the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Workgroup who recommended the university create a trauma-informed, inclusive and accessible sexual assault health care program. 

From this recommendation, the university sought the services of Jen Markowitz, a forensic nursing consultant and expert in sexual assault nurse examiner programs, and committed to renovating a space customized to the needs of sexual assault survivors. 

To ensure the unique needs of the MSU community were considered in the development and implementation of the program and facility, the RVSM workgroup formed the SANE Advisory Board. Led by Rebecca Campbell, professor of psychology and adviser to the president on RVSM matters, the all-volunteer board has been involved in all facets of the program and facility design.  

Architects and designers assigned to the renovation project received input from Markowitz, the RVSM workgroup, the SANE Advisory Board and campus service providers to make the space feel safe, welcoming and patient-centered.

“The Sexual Assault Healthcare Program suite is designed to provide care for one patient at a time,” said Fedewa. “This program will first and foremost tend to the health and well-being of each person who seeks treatment.” 

Built to be a confidential resource on the campus, the waiting room is equipped with comfortable seating and soft lighting. Adjacent to the examination room is a small sitting room where the forensic nurse can meet with a patient to collect medical history information prior to the exam. The examination room is a large suite with an attached bathroom equipped with an accessible shower, toiletries, self-care items and replacement clothing available to patients.   

Sameerah Shareef, a longtime nurse midwife in the Lansing area, was hired as the medical director of the program and will lead a team of sexual assault nurse examiners who were hired to conduct specialized exams. 

In addition, a care coordinator from the MSU Center for Survivors was hired to train and supervise volunteer medical advocates who will be available around the clock, offering critical support during an exam. The care coordinator will be tasked with patient follow-up in the days after an exam to connect patients to resources and services both at MSU and in the community.  

This program is funded through a grant from the Victims of Crime Act.

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Contributing Writer(s): Chris Chapman

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