FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 22, 2018
All About the People: Muscogee (Creek) Nation Program Provides Care and Support to Sexual Assault Survivors
OKMULGEE, Okla. – Among the various services the Muscogee (Creek) Nation offers to citizens and communities, the tribe continues to implement new programs that provide assistance to those in need.
One of the fairly new MCN programs, the MCN Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program, known as the SANE Program, provides comprehensive care and support to victims of sexual violence for Native and non-Native men and women within the tribal jurisdiction.
Before the MCN SANE Program was established in 2016, MCN Family Violence Prevention Program and the MCN Department of Health joined efforts to identify and resolve gaps in services within the MCN boundaries.
One of the challenges they recognized was the lack of victims’ resources available to sexual assault survivors in rural communities; including access to sexual assault exams. In turn, victims would have to travel to Tulsa for a SANE exam.
Funding from the Federal Victims of Crime Act of Victim Assistance Grant (VOCA) allowed MCN to implement the SANE Program to provide free and confidential exams to victims at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Medical Center in Okmulgee, Okla., and the Creek Nation Community Hospital in Okemah, Okla.
MCN DOH Public Health Nurse and On-Call SANE Nurse, Brandy Treagesser, said adding the program was a significant impact on the MCN communities.
“In such a small community that serves such a wide population of people, just having it here people are a lot more likely to report what happened than them not reporting because they would have to drive to Tulsa,” Treagesser said. “And with a small community, I think people are more likely to report and are more comfortable.”
MCN SANE Program Manager LaResa Williams said providing the SANE Program to survivors is a first step in the healing process.
Once a call is made to MCN’s 24-hour SANE Hotline, within an hour of that call the sexual assault survivor is able to meet with a SANE Nurse and SANE Advocate who have specialized training in the comprehensive care advocacy of sexual assault victims.
Adults 18 years or older do not have to report the case to law enforcement. However, any SANE Exam administered to a victim under the age of 18 must be reported to law enforcement.
After the completed exam, the program’s support and advocacy services are voluntarily available to the survivor from financial and housing assistance to court advocacy throughout the prosecution process as needed.
“We’re able to meet the needs of citizens and non-citizens within the Nation’s boundaries and put victims in contact with advocacy services,” FVPP Victims’ Advocate Annie Merritt, said. “We can help with emergency shelter, financial services and court advocacy.”
Merritt said court advocacy is essentially working as a lesion between the victim and the court and law enforcement by explaining the court process, attending interviews, meetings and court hearings, as well as offering emotional support.
“We’re providing the information back to the victims and interpreting the criminal justice process and also providing that emotional support,” Merritt said. “Most aren’t familiar with the different hearings and just having us there to explain that and provide them that comfort and support throughout and a familiar face.”
As part of the SANE Program, Domestic Violence Exams are also administered to victims of intimate partner violence and services offered to victims of domestic violence.
Bringing awareness to domestic violence and sexual assault and providing support to the victims is imperative to the Nation, because it’s all about the people.
For more information on the services available to victims as well as full details of the SANE Program, visit the FVPP website at www.mcn-nsn.gov/services/family-violence-prevention-program.
The 24-hour SANE Hotline can be reached at 918-732-7979 where an advocate is available at all times to speak with.