Aimee Falkenberg has been able to give something extra to survivors of sexual assault and/or domestic violence in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.
She’s the Central Island co-ordinator for the Forensic Nurse Examiner Program, which gives specified, compassionate and confidential medical care, sexual assault forensic examinations (SAFE) and other types of support to survivors. Now, she’s able to give those using the program a ‘comfort kit’ – all due to donations from more than 100 community members and businesses.
It started off with the forensic nurses talking among themselves about the idea of gathering comfort items from their own homes. They got feedback from patients on what they’d like to see in the kits – everything from food to clothes to toiletries.
“From there, it kind of took off, because the patients love them. A lot of patients when they come in, they come in with nothing because they’ve left an abusive relationship and they’ve left with just their housecoat on and quite often they don’t have anything,” she said. “To give them this little kit that has got a toothbrush… chocolate bar, little bag of chips, gum and Tic Tacs and that kind of stuff. A journal and a pen.”
Falkenberg said it’s been great to see the community back a program she feels really makes a difference.
“You’ve provided something that is important to them at that time, but the community has done that for them, it’s not just you as a forensic nurse providing that care,” she said. “Quite often, we get tears.”
If you want to see a forensic nurse, you can ask to see one in any emergency room on Vancouver Island. Falkenberg said she wants people to know that the program is completely patient-driven – there’s no pressure for anyone to choose a specific option.
“I think when people seek the resources of forensic nursing, they end up seeing that it is a very holistic approach. Very nonjudgemental, very nonbiased, and very patient-driven. So, if that patient comes in, doesn’t matter what age, because we do see all ages and all genders,” she said. “We give them three options for care, and we tell them that this not our decision, this is their experience, their journey, we are there beside them.”
FNEs can see survivors up to seven days post-sexual assault and domestic violence and can provide the choice of three options for their care. These options, listed on the Island Health website, include:
• Medical care only. SAFE is not performed and no police report is filed.
• Medical care and SAFE; this includes the documentation of physical injuries and forensic sample collection. The forensic samples are stored for one year so survivors can decide what they would like to do.
• Medical care and SAFE, where forensic samples are provided to RCMP right away.
For immediate support or if you would like to speak to someone about your experience, contact the Vancouver Island Crisis line at 1-888-494-3888. Anyone wishing to donate for the comfort kits can email Aimee.firstname.lastname@example.org.