Texas Forensic Nurses Examiners (TXFNE) provide hospitals and clinics with a forensic nurse when an in-depth and legally binding exam is necessary for an arriving patient who has been victimized by a violent crime, domestic violence, or human-trafficking related injuries. TXFNE is part of the coordinated community response team that will provide the supporting exam evidence to a crime. After law enforcement is called to a crime scene and determines that the victim of the crime should have a forensic exam, TXFNE provides the exam that will be used in court, as well as the caring support that comes from a nurse.
What is a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner?
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are registered nurses who have specialized knowledge and skills to care for the patient who has experienced sexual assault.
The Importance of the Medical Forensic Exam in Human Trafficking Cases
How Does TXFNE Help Victims of Trafficking?
TXFNE closes the gap in medical forensic services for victims of trafficking. The medical forensic management of this population is crucial on two levels. First, victims' immediate needs from an evidentiary standpoint, and an exam by a trained and certified forensic nurse is essential. These immediate needs also include prophylaxis for sexually transmitted infection, HIV and pregnancy as well as an overall physical assessment for their well-being, looking for any other injuries and trauma.
The TXFNE forensic nurse is vital to connecting victims with healing and recovery services provided by our community partners and NGOs, including Rescue Houston and Houston Area Women's Center (HAWC). TXFNE has specially trained forensic nurses to diagnose and treat this vulnerable population. Secondly, because trafficking victims are at high risk for many long-term medical issues, including gastrointestinal issues from poor nutrition, reproductive concerns, and psychological issues, connection to medical services and organizations we partner with can prevent these disabling medical issues.
Impacting the Demand
The medical forensic exam provides the District Attorney's Office (DAO) with in prosecution. The history obtained during the medical forensic exam is an exception to the hearsay rule because it is taken for the purpose of medical diagnosis and treatment. The victim's raw, personal account of trauma helps juries understand the impact of the trauma and is critical in getting perpetrators off the streets and behind bars.
Currently, in Houston, medical forensic exams are only offered at specified area hospitals, which puts the victim in an uncomfortable emergency room environment. Oftentimes, victims and families have to wait in the ER for hours to be seen. And even after waiting, they are not guaranteed to be seen by a seasoned trauma-informed nurse who has been specially trained to care for the trafficking population. These victims are not the usual victims of sexual assault. They need specialized, individualized care.
TXFNE aims to be a mobile solution to medical forensic exam needs in the community and and will launch in March, 2019. TXFNE will also provide services in designated clinic spaces inside HAWC and The Bridge Over Troubled Waters. TXFNE is securing contracts with area hospitals and other organizations to provide this service at their locations as well. We have been in communication with Houston police department vice, the department of public safety and the Harris county sheriff’s office HT Division to be a part of their organized stings, which will ease access to the medical forensic exam and prevent the chaos of the emergency room environment for the patient and Law Enforcement Officers. The medical forensic exam provided by TXFNE is both best practice for the patient and for prosecutorial efforts that benefit the patient and community.