Tarrant County College are working with Texas Health Resources Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program to provide sexual assault victims needed healthcare while educating the community.
Tarrant County College’s District Title IX Compliance Officer Kateeka, J. Harris saw a gap in sexual assault prevention and sought to partner with THR. Sexual assault education is a requirement for higher education institutions, but high rates of violence show that more needs to be done. More than 50 percent of campus sexual assault occurs between the beginning of the year and Thanksgiving. Around 13 percent of all college students in the U.S. are victims of sexual violence, and Texas spends $8 billion to address sexual assault every year.
TCC is hoping for a culture change. “For me, it was really about identifying what the need was and then looking for partners that could help fill the need,” Harris says. “The folks at Texas Health Resources are experts in that area, and they know exactly what and where to plug individuals into resources that they [the community] will all need.”
One in six women and one in 10 men are victims of sexual assault at one point in their lives, and those ages 18-24 are most likely to be impacted. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program director at Texas Health Resources Cindy Burnette says Texas Health had multiple reasons to join the partnership. “Although we’re health care system, we’re a business. Part of that is we want our community to be healthy, and that’s why we offer a lot of services to promote health, and not just treat it after the fact.”
The SANE nurses are available to the entire TCC community and provide educational workshops and healthcare programming about sexual assault. They also offer behavioral health services, forensics collection, crisis intervention, housing, and identifying legal needs for victims.
“It was just a natural fit, being able to partner with THR to specifically talk about certain topics like sexual assault, dating violence, or domestic violence. It was a powerful opportunity because they have the expertise; not only do they work with the community, but they are part of the community,” Harris says.
Burnette says that the program offers emotional support for victims, helping them avoid self-blame. They focus on “giving the victim back that power that was taken from them because sexual assault is about a power struggle.”
Burnette says sexual violence has both short and long-term physical, mental, and sexual health consequences, and other impacts include lost wages and failing classes. In addition, sexual assault has a financial burden that SANE hopes to mitigate for TCC students. “There’s an economic cost to sexual assault just for medical care and mental care alone, which I think it’s great with when we talk about the college student, because luckily, at least they have some of those services on campus that the student probably doesn’t have to pay for, to get counseling services.”
“It’s a great job because I feel like what we do is that first step of healing for somebody else. We’re validating what happened to them. We believe them, no matter how crazy the story might seem,” Burnette says. They focus on “giving the victim back that power that was taken to them because sexual assault’s not about the sexual act, sexual assaults about a power struggle.”