Sexual assault course ends

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2001

A group of local nurses testified in Adams County Court Tuesday about their examination of a sexual assault victim.

Fortunately, the case was not real.

The nurses were taking part in a 40-hour course to teach them how better to interview a sexual assault victim and how best to gather forensic evidence.

With the help of area prosecutors and state officials the nurses were interrogated on the witness stand, went through cross examination and received pointers from officials such as Adams County Judge John Hudson.

For example, Hudson told the nurses to make sure they explain all medical terms, even if not asked, because it assists the jurors.

&uot;When you’re using those terms you need to explain what you mean by that in common lay language each time it comes up,&uot; Hudson said.

Tuesday’s day in court was the final day of the course for the nurses, many of whom work at Natchez Regional Medical Center or Natchez Community Hospital.

Many of the nurses have dealt with rape victims in their careers and already know how to serve their patients, said Elise J. Turner, education coordinator for the Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

&uot;These are experienced nurses who already have all those skills and we’re just enhancing what they already do,&uot; Turner said.

The class, which qualifies the nurses to be sexual assault nurse examiners, included teaching them how to do examinations on real people, how to gather forensic evidence and how to take pictures which might be needed by a jury.

This included gathering evidence such as dirt, sand, or blood that may link a victim to the place of the assault and to her assailant, Turner said.

&uot;We want these nurses to be able to perform when they walk out the door and if they don’t do real practice on real people they won’t be prepared,&uot; Turner said.

In the two years the program has been offered, Turner said program organizers are already seeing success.

Previously, no hospital in the state was taking photographs of injuries that resulted from sexual assault, she said.

The University of Mississippi offers the nurses credit for the course which is in conjunction with Alcorn School of Nursing, the attorney general’s office, the Guardian Sexual Assault Center in Natchez, local law enforcement agencies and the offices of several district attorneys including the Natchez office.