Hospital grant will aid victims of sexual assault

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By Janet Robb

PERRY COUNTY - Thanks to a $3,000 grant, Perry County Memorial Hospital will soon have two nurse examiners trained to care for victims of sexual assault.

The Perry County prosecutor's office received the grant from the Perry County Community Foundation to fund the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program at the hospital.

Sexual-assault victims are required to have a forensic examination by a trained nurse examiner and the grant will pay for training and certification of nurses Kayla Gehlhausen and Matrika Brown. They will leave for training April 20 at Floyd Memorial Hospital in New Albany.

Gehlhausen, who works at the hospital, said currently sexual assault victims have to go to Floyd Hospital to be examined. By having the program at PCMH, "victims won't have to travel and they'll be closer to home," she said.

Also, having examiners at PCMH will allow law enforcement timely access to evidence collection, according to a news release from Jennifer Chestnut, victim advocate with the county prosecutor's office.

As part of their duties, Gehlhausen and Brown will perform exams, collect evidence and testify in court if a case goes to trial. "I decided to do this because it is a great opportunity to help people," Gehlhausen said.

A nurse at Branchville Correctional Facility, Brown said she wants to "help people and be there for them in their time of need."

In addition to the training, a special digital camera will be purchased to assist nurses in properly documenting and preserving any evidence collected for future prosecution.

According to Chestnut, Perry County is part of a five-county Sexual Abuse Response Team serving the victims of Perry, Crawford, Dubois, Orange and Spencer counties.

The goal of the SART team is to ensure that victims of sexual assault have access to the best medical care, professional advocacy and criminal justice support possible.