By Kayla Woody, House of Hope DVPI Prevention Specialist

Chances are, you know someone who has experienced sexual violence.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience sexual assault, calling it a serious public health problem — and it’s one that disproportionately affects Native American communities. Native American women are raped at more than twice the rate of any other race, but they are least likely to report due to cultural taboos and legal loopholes that make it impossible for tribal courts to prosecute non-Native offenders. 

As a community, we need to do much better in terms of medical care for sexual assault survivors. There is specific training available for nurses and nursing students, enabling them to become a certified sexual assault nurse examiner. SANE nurses meet with victims of sexual assault and abuse to conduct a thorough forensic exam as well as provide expert testimony in court when needed.

There is currently an emergency shortage of SANE nurses to adequately support our state’s prevalence of sexual assault. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the rate of rape (or attempted rape) reported by Oklahoma women to law enforcement is 35-45 percent higher than the national average. And it has been — for a decade.

Out of the 77 counties in Oklahoma, only 32 — less than half — have SANE nurse programs. In Pottawatomie County, where the Citizen Potawatomi Nation is located, there are only two SANE nurses to serve 73,000 residents.

This is simply unacceptable. We need to do better for the vulnerable members of our community.

CPN’s House of Hope, which supports domestic violence victims, is partnering with local colleges to provide information about this vital care. Pottawatomie County nurses and nursing students are invited to take part in a series of training sessions to learn the role of a SANE nurse and steps to SANE certification.

If you are in the nursing profession or are studying to become a nurse, I urge you to take part. Sexual assault survivors throughout Oklahoma deserve better. You can be the catalyst to providing hope and healing.

Kayla Woody is a domestic violence prevention specialist at Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s House of Hope, a program that offers free assistance to all individuals, Native or non-Native, who have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking. Find the House of Hope at