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CCASA Member Spotlight: The Realization of Being Blessed

By Leni Sutton, CCASA Guest Blogger

Sitting here, in the midst of a warm fall day, I am gathering the statistics for our first anniversary as a full-fledged, functioning Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program.  I count all of the number of exams we have completed. Each with their specific details of age, race, assault history, hours of reporting and the likes.  The number of trainings to law enforcement agencies and victims advocacy groups.  The number of training or in services that my team and I have attended. I also come across the praises, well wishes and congratulations from evaluations that I’ve received in the mail, or by email.  Then it hits me, almost blows me out of my chair…..how can all of this success be possible in a mere 12 months?  The fact that I am sitting in a beautifully designed room built for the sole purpose of caring for victims of sexual assault is an overwhelming wonder!

It was only two years ago that I sat in front of my computer with my headset on awaiting the start of my live online webinar training for sexual assault nurse examiners to begin.  I was excited and as I look back at it now, I really had no idea the marvelous world I was about to walk in to.  Two weeks of studying, two days of clinical skills, hours of well women’s exams and courtroom observations; I was on my way to working with seasoned SANE’s to gather the skills I needed to embark on my own.

Then on my own I went!  Not only as a practicing nurse but also as the nurse manager for our team!  The team is new.  We had no policies in place.  We had no equipment or supplies.  Everything that I did I liken to how Lewis and Clark must have felt as they started on their exploration.  There were so many people to reach out to.  So many organizations to educate and partner up with.  My main goals for my team were to provide the best possible environment for practice; develop the relationships needed to ensure long term successes and of course, develop a team that would offer compassion and support to all survivors of sexual assault.  Six months later we opened our doors, and here I sit another twelve months later.  In utter awe.

I think of the over 100 survivors of sexual assault that my team and myself have had the privilege of serving.  The young, the old, and everyone in between.  Male and female.  Special needs or not.  Reporting to law enforcement or merely wanting to be examined to be ensured that they are “going to be alright.”  It is a privilege to be invited into someone’s world when they are at their most vulnerable.  I think about how profound that is as the leaves blow gently off of the trees.

Have there been bumps in the road along the way?  Absolutely!  I would hope that there would be for it is in our challenges that we learn.  But it is my first and foremost ambition to continue to be the best SANE that I possibly can.  Always providing the care that any survivor deserves in their time of need.  Always being the manager that encourages and builds up her team.  Always being the team member who strives to make everyone’s job a little better.

Now, as sun warms the air and the brilliant colors of autumn glow more vividly, I switch focus from the past twelve months to the twelve months and beyond into the future.  I think of growing my team.  I think of expanding our practice to include survivors of intimate partner violence and strangulation.  I think of the many organizations that I will have the privilege of being a member of.  There is sure to be growth.  There are sure to be changes.  But one thing I know for certain, I have been truly blessed.

Leni is the nurse manager and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner for the South Denver SANE team out of Littleton and Porter hospitals.  She is blessed to work at her passion full time.  When not at work, Leni is busy trying to keep up with her three teenage children and two puppies.

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