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WVU group to raise awareness, host fundraiser for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner training

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Council for Women's Concerns will host its second annual "Champagne for SANEs" happy hour awareness event and fundraiser to benefit sexual assault nurse examiner training locally.

The happy hour event, which will be held April 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Table 9, will feature a silent auction, raffle, and food and drink specials. All proceeds from a signature cocktail and mocktail, "SANE Champagne," will go toward the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training program. In addition, 20 percent of the entire day's food and drink proceeds at Table 9 will benefit the cause.

Local businesses, including Tailpipes Gourmet Burgers and Shakes, The Wine Bar and Apothecary Ale House will provide items for the silent auction and raffle.

"A recent campus climate survey conducted by WVU’s Research Center on Violence illustrates some of the challenges our community faces in regards to sexual misconduct," said Rachel Nieman, organizer of the event and Council for Women's Concerns member. “In addition to raising funds, this event serves to highlight and celebrate the work of SANEs by raising awareness of the need and importance of their service.”

The West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner training program provides specialized training for nurses so they can provide crucial services to victims of sexual assault through compassionate and competent medical forensic patient care.

“Where they exist, SANE programs have made a profound difference in the quality of care provided to victims of sexual assault,” said Debra Bonasso, Education Coordinator at FRIS. SANE is a qualification for forensic nurses who have received special training to conduct sexual assault evidentiary exams for victims of rape and sexual assault. “When a SANE conducts the medical examination, research shows that the victim is more likely to feel supported and believed.”

The training program has several steps. The first step is free and online, so many nurses complete it. However, the next steps include classroom and clinical training, which can be cost prohibitive for some nurses. It also may require travel, causing nurses to incur additional costs above and beyond that of the training itself. These barriers can prevent nurses from finishing the training. Funds raised at this event will be used to create a scholarship fund for FRIS to have on hand when a nurse or medical organization wants to complete the training but needs financial assistance to do so, or for other training needs.

“SANE programs are recommended by the International Association of Forensic Nurses and the Emergency Nurses Association as ‘best practice’ in providing care to patients who have been sexually assaulted,” said Margaret Denny, Nurse Manager at the WVU Department of Emergency Medicine and WV SANE Project Coordinator at FRIS. “Employing SANEs in an emergency department allows for timely exams, compassionate care, improved evidence collection and stronger cases for prosecution. As part of the specialized training, SANEs learn the emotional aspects of caring for patients of sexual assault and how to collaborate with advocates from local rape crisis centers.

The West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services is West Virginia’s state sexual assault coalition. Established in 1982 and comprised of the state’s nine rape crisis centers, FRIS works with all allied professionals to strengthen services and develop intervention and prevention programs to address sexual violence, stalking and dating violence.

The Council for Women’s Concerns, established in 1977, connects and empowers women in all areas of the University and local community by facilitating a dialogue on women’s issues and serving as a resource for women and girls. Visit to learn more about the Council for Women’s Concerns.