© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

SANE program expands to Aspirus Rhinelander Hospital


On average in Wisconsin, one out of three adult women and almost one out of every five adult men will experience sexual violence in their lifetimes.

Aspirus Rhinelander Hospital now has trained nurses that specialize in care for those who have experienced sexual or domestic violence.

As WXPR has previously reported, organizations that work with sexual and domestic violence survivors saw an increase in violence during the height of the pandemic when people were asked to stay home.

Lacy Santilli says she also saw that increase working at the Aspirus Rhinelander Hospital and Howard Young Hospital in Woodruff. She’s the RN SANE coordinator for the two hospitals.

“We saw a spike in SANE cases, domestic violence strangulation. That kind of gave us the fire we needed after COVID realizing it’s happening and it’s happening more,” said Santilli.

SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.

It’s a specialized training nurses can go through that teaches them how to physically and emotionally care for sexual and domestic violence survivors. They’re also qualified to collect the needed forensic evidence to prosecute cases if the victim chooses to do so.

For a long time, survivors would have to travel to Weston or even further south for these services.

In 2020, Howard Young started offering it. Now, Aspirus Rhinelander Hospital does too in its Emergency Department.

Santilli says that’s important geographically since they work a lot with Tri-County Council which covers Vilas, Oneida, and Forest counties. Rhinelander is much more centrally located.

“I was seeing patients after the fact. Like months, years later after the assault. A lot of them were not getting exams done because they couldn’t afford to drive to Weston or they didn’t know where to go,” she said.

Santilli says right now there are three of them that are trained and will travel to the different hospitals when called in.

She’s hoping even more will be trained come this fall when the State Department of Justice is offering a five-day intensive SANE training program at Howard Young.

“This is something somebody can’t be willy-nilly about. It’s either you’re in or you’re not. We get calls at 3:00 a.m., at midnight, during the middle of the day and the three of us have worked a full 12-hour shift and then had to drive up to Howard Young to do a six-hour SANE exam or things like that,” said Santilli.

To collect physical evidence, Santilli says they need to see the patients within five days of the assault.

She stressed that survivors can still seek treatment and report to police even months after and no matter what level of care they seek out, they’re the ones in control.

“None of this is set in stone or black and white. Forensic nursing is very gray. If somebody needs something they can always call, and we will meet whatever needs they have,” said Santilli.

Support for survivors of sexual assault is available. To contact Aspirus SANE in your area, call:

  • Aspirus Ironwood Hospital: 906-932-2525
  • Aspirus Medford Hospital: 715-748-8100
  • Aspirus Rhinelander Hospital: 715-361-2000
  • Aspirus Riverview Hospital: 715-423-6060
  • Aspirus Stevens Point Hospital: 715-346-5000
  • Aspirus Wausau Hospital: 715-847-2121
  • Howard Young Medical Center: 715-356-8000

To speak with someone anonymously, the following 24/7 free confidential hotlines are available:

  • Tri County Council advocacy: 1-800-236-1222
  • RAINN: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Women’s Community Sexual Assault Victim Services: 715-842-7323 or 1-888-665-1234
Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
Up North Updates
* indicates required
Related Content