BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. — According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 19 percent of women in Maryland have been raped or attempted to be raped in their life time. 44 percent of Maryland’s women, more than 23 percent of men in the state, have been the victim of other forms of sexual violence.
Experts say this violence is a growing problem. That’s why GBMC opened a new facility to help victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking. It’s the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) Program. The GBMC program is the first to have protocols in place for responding to victims of human trafficking. They also help children who have been physically or sexually abused.
“We are hospital based so when the patient comes in they receive both medical treatment as well as medical forensic services,” said Laura Clary, a forensic nurse and the clinical program manager for GBMC’s SAFE and DV program. She added, “in addition to their medical care we would also do a forensic nursing portion which because they’re a victim of a crime we are collecting evidence from their body.” She said they work closely with law enforcement and the state attorney’s office to make sure the victim gets the best treatment since ultimately they are collecting evidence that would be able to hold up in the court of law.
There are 19 forensic examiners who are part of the Safe and DV program at GBMC, all are specifically trained to work with people after a trauma. Since 2016, every year, the program helped 370 victims who dealt with violence from an intimate partner and 280 who were sexually assaulted. Since 2019, this program helped 15 victims of human trafficking.
Now the program is able to help more victims since they opened this new space.
“We wanted to create a space that everybody felt welcome and they felt safe and we wanted it to feel calm and healing as well so even just coming down to the paint colors and the finishes that we used, we didn’t want it to feel so hospital and so sterile. We wanted it to feel very comforting and warm for patients so that is our goal to make sure that we are always here 24/7, 365 days a year. We have nurses and victims’ advocates on standby to come in if you would need us,” said Clary.
Clary said none of this would be possible without the support from the hospital and support from the community.
This program also worked with the Maryland Center for School Safety to train more than 1,400 school resource officers across the state to be able to identify signs of child trafficking, child abuse and neglect, child exploitation and intimate partner violence in their schools.