It is perhaps one of the most traumatic experiences a person can have: sexual assault. But a team of specially-trained doctors, nurses and volunteers is standing by to help at a Sparks facility specifically designed for survivors and their families.
The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) facility features exam rooms for both adults and children. Here, some 200 adults and about 100 children are examined each year after they've survived an assault. At any hour of the day or night, survivors are brought here from across northern Nevada and eastern California to be examined, counseled and provided with information about resources available in the area to help them heal and move on with their lives in a healthy way.
Kristen MacLeod, MD is the medical director of the facility, and while she treats both adults and children, she says it's the children who have the greatest impact on her life.
"I remember each and every one of them," MacLeod says. "That's how much they stay with you, and that's how much each case gives to you."
"We try not to make them feel like a piece of evidence," adds Debbi Robison, RN, who also works on the team. "We provide information about follow-up care and counseling, and we try to steer them in a direction of healing."
The SART team responds at any hour of the day or night to the facility or to local hospitals, if survivors are brought there. But they prefer to keep their patients out of the hustle and bustle of hospital emergency rooms, instead bringing them to the calm, quiet office liberally sprinkled with teddy bears and other toys that both children and adults often hold during exams.
They can also hold the hands of volunteers like Kasey Lafoon, an advocate who was trained to help in times of crisis.
"When they say 'thank you, you really made a difference, I couldn't have done it without you,' I get goosebumps thinking about it," says Lafoon, who has been a volunteer for more than a year.
The center will treat anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault, no matter when the assault took place. They will perform exams if the cases are recent, or simply provide information and support for older cases. If an adult survivor does not initially want to notify law enforcement, doctors will gather evidence and hold it until he or she makes a final decision.
The SART team needs volunteer advocates, and is organizing a training program that will begin in October. For more information about volunteering, or to get help in the aftermath of a sexual assault, here are the numbers you can call:
Crisis Call Center 24-Hour Hotline: (775) 784-8090
Crisis Call Business Office: (775) 784-8085