Learn how SC forensic nurse examiners empower survivors of sexual assault
Using a secure digital forensic imaging system, a team of nurses at McLeod Health provides specialized, trauma-informed care to victims of sexual assault. Located in Florence, the forensic nurse examiner program is the only program of its kind in the area. Unfortunately these services are in high demand. Victims travel to Florence from nine nearby counties and even from North Carolina.
“One person in America is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds so the need for forensic nurses is very high,” said Shannon Scott, a forensic nurse examiner program coordinator at McLeod Health. “But unfortunately, nationally there are not enough forensic nurses to go around to help these patients.”
Scott and members of her team are trained in topics like evidence collection, forensic photography, the neurobiology of trauma and how it relates to victims of crime and court testimony. All of their patients are victims of crime. In addition to sexual assault, her team also treats patients who have survived domestic violence and human trafficking.
“Everything we do for the patient is about giving that power and control back,” said Scott.
During a forensic exam Scott will continually ask for consent from the patient before conducting a head to toe assessment and documenting injuries. Patients are offered emergency contraception, sexually transmitted infectious prophylactic medications, and given resources.
Scott uses specialized photography equipment from Secure Digital Forensic Imaging-Telemedicine to photograph wounds. Those pictures are then moved from the camera system through an SDFI computer and stored indefinitely on a user's network. Next, Scott is able to transfer forensic reports to law enforcement using SDFI-Telemedicine’s military level encryption which ensures that the data is always secure.
SDFI’s asynchronous telehealth solution is a ‘store and send’ or a ‘store and forward solution’ that uses nested, end-to-end encryption.
Reports are also securely transmitted to other providers including pediatrician Dr. Michael K. Foxworth II, a medical director for the forensic nurse examiner program at McLeod and forensic medical exam provider for Care House of Pee Dee.
According to Dr. Foxworth, in 2022 about 4,000 forensic medical exams were performed by child abuse pediatrics providers who are part of the South Carolina Child Advocacy and Medical Response System. Of those about 49% were referred for sexual abuse and about 3% were for child sex trafficking and exploitation.
“Having a (forensic examiner) program like at Mcleod is extremely important,” said Dr. Foxworth. “Prior to the start of the forensic nurse examiner program patients frequently had to travel very far distances and many didn’t receive exams. So this gives us the ability to document those injuries so that we can provide accurate and trauma-informed care for these patients.”
If you are a victim of domestic violence/intimate partner violence or sexual assault, contact Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault. The call is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day.
Toll Free: 1-800-273-1820
Florence: (843) 669-4600
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
South Carolina DDS: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)