Sexual Assault Survivors Get Help From Growing Nurse Program at RUSH

Specially trained nurses at RUSH are giving sexual assault survivors compassionate, high-quality care.
SANEs at RUSH posed for a photo

Survivors of sexual assault need empathetic and expert care in the aftermath of such a terrifying and traumatic event. That’s where RUSH’s sexual assault nurse examiners, or SANEs, step in.

When survivors come to the hospital to get evaluated, many are aware of the “rape kit” that has materials used to collect evidence from their bodies. But that’s only part of the process. A full evaluation includes head-to-toe exams, forensic photography and documentation of injuries.

SANEs are there to walk survivors through all these steps while also providing guidance on medications to prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. They’re specially trained to navigate the full scope of exams, paperwork and legal red tape that comes with helping survivors. SANEs are present at all hours of the day at all our hospitals. RUSH University Medical Center cares for sexual assault survivors of all ages, while RUSH Copley Medical Center in Aurora and RUSH Oak Park Hospital care for survivors ages 13 and older.

“Our program is founded on the principle of providing the best quality of care to individuals who have suffered from sexual assault,” says Anna Candoleza Muglia, a pediatric and adult-adolescent SANE and SANE program coordinator at RUSH. “Our dedication to excellence is steadfast, and we consistently strive to deliver the best possible care to those who have been affected by sexual violence.”

The SANE program continually adds more dedicated staff to address the issue. At RUSH Copley, the team has nearly doubled since the program’s inception and now includes professionals in emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, intermediate care, nursing professional development and vascular care. 

"SANEs are providing essential care to our patients at the most vulnerable time in their lives,” says Gina Becker-Espinoza, the program coordinator at RUSH Copley. “The team leads with compassion and makes sure the survivors know they’ll be taken care of and that there will be someone with them every step of the way as they start to heal.”

RUSH also started and is leading a new initiative: the Sexual Assault Response Team. The group is made up of representatives from our neighboring hospital systems, including UI Health, Stroger and Sinai Health Systems, as well as representatives from the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Fire Department and advocates from across the city. 

This collaboration allows health care workers to provide new pathways to legal aid and resources for survivors. Even though the program is just getting started, the connections it makes are already having a positive impact on patient care.

“Care of sexual assault survivors requires the coordinated commitment of professionals in medicine, emergency services, law enforcement and victims’ rights,” says Monika Pitzele, MD, PhD, medical director of RUSH’s Sexual Assault Program. “Only by working together can we fully support people who are dealing with this trauma.”

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every 68 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted. Every nine minutes, that victim is a child. This April’s theme is “Building Connected Communities” and calls on each of us to work together to prevent sexual violence. More information and resources for sexual assault survivors and allies can be found on the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network website.

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