It takes a community to prevent sexual abuse



The first step in prevention is awareness. As we turn the calendar to May, marking the end of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Awareness Month, now is a good time to remember that you can make a difference year-round.

While we often hear about these topics from the criminal justice side, abuse is also a health care issue. Forensic nurse examiner programs such as the one at WellSpan York Hospital, provide specialized care for patients who are impacted by physical abuse, sexual abuse or both.

We are invested in the belief that when abuse happens, recognition and intervention will decrease the immediate and long term health risks, which research has shown us may occur for individuals.

All too often lives of all ages and backgrounds are impacted by abuse. Following tragic and alarming events people say, “I can’t believe this happened.” Unfortunately, it can and it does. For 80 percent of the patients evaluated by the forensic examiner program at WellSpan York Hospital, abuse is happening before the person turns 18.

We know stopping abuse is a team effort, as well as meeting all the needs of someone who has been abused. We work with many community agencies to achieve the best outcomes for our patients.

You can help, too. Be aware of what is happening in your community – on your street, at school and even in your home. If you see something, speak up and call ChildLine, Pennsylvania’s hotline if there is a concern a child is being abused. The number to call is: 1-800-932-0313. You don’t have to know something is happening to pick up the phone; it’s a way to get professionals involved to find out.

Emily Huggins is manager of the forensic nurse examiner program at WellSpan York Hospital. She is a 2016 Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania winner in Community Nursing and was recently awarded a PA Blue Ribbon Champion designation by the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) for making a significant impact on child safety.