Medical forensic exams are now available at the Ladysmith Urgent Care Centre between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm, seven days a week. (Island Health photo)

Help now available in Ladysmith for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence

Forensic nurse examiners available at the health centre seven days a week

It’s a problem no community is immune from, not even small ones like Ladysmith.

And now there is help for those affected, closer to home.

Survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence in Ladysmith can now access medical care, sexual assault forensic examinations (SAFE), and other supports they may need at the Ladysmith Health Care Centre.

Island Health announced this week that forensic nurse examiners — who have specialized training to provide medical forensic exams — are now available to support patients in Ladysmith’s urgent care department between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm, seven days a week.

Accoding to Island health, forensic nurse examiners can see survivors up to seven days after a sexual assault or domestic violence, and can provide the choice of three care options:

· Medical care only. SAFE is not performed and no police report is filed.

· Medical care and SAFE; this includes the documentation of physical injuries and forensic sample collection. The forensic samples are stored for one year so survivors have time to decide what they would like to do.

· Medical care and SAFE, where forensic samples are provided to RCMP immediately.

“Forensic nurse examiners ensure survivors of violence are supported beyond the examination room. They work with health, social, and legal services, and can refer survivors to local supports and partner agencies,” Island Health said in a media release.

Outside of the above hours, survivors can access 24-hour SAFE services at the emergency departments at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital or the Cowichan District Hospital. 24-hour support is also available through the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.

Island Health has approximately 70 forensic nurse examiners. They work on-call to care for people of all genders and ages who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence.

In October 2018, Island Health launched a social media campaign called #TrustYourself to encourage survivors to seek medical help following an assault and to promote the excellent work of the Forensic Nurse Examiner program. Through Facebook and Instagram, the #TrustYourself campaign has reached more than 150,000 people.

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