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Opening Doors to Empower Victims of Interpersonal Violence

Opening Doors to Empower Victims of Interpersonal Violence

The number of people who come to the Washington Hospital Emergency Department because of sexual assault or physical domestic violence is surprisingly high—approximately one a week. It could be your child, sibling, parent, colleague or friend. They could be straight or LGBTQ plus, any age, from any culture or background. They are afraid, alone, embarrassed, ashamed and looking for safety and help. They find both in Washington Hospital’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), a group of seven registered nurse examiners who offer trauma-informed care and key resources for victims of interpersonal violence in the community.

You are invited to learn more about care and key resources for victims of interpersonal violence during a free, online community seminar. On Tuesday, Oct 24, at 1 p.m. Washington Hospital ED Clinical Nurse Specialist Betty Goodwin, DNP, RN, CNS, AGCNS-BC, CEN, will present “Opening Doors to Empower Victims of Interpersonal Violence.” Community partner Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments (SAVE) will provide an introductory message for the presentation. To watch live on Facebook, sign in to your account, then go to Or you can watch it without an account by going to Washington Hospital’s InHealth YouTube Channel at

In addition to serving individuals and families affected by intimate partner violence, SART works closely with SAVE, a southern Alameda County group working to provide safety, support and resources to victims of domestic violence. Because California law requires health care workers dealing with sexual abuse, domestic violence, or child trafficking victims to report the suspected abuse to law enforcement as soon as is practicable, SART also works to educate law enforcement and health care workers to better recognize and understand these requirements.

When an assault victim comes to the ED, staff understand they have been through a traumatic event and reassure them they are safe and in good hands. Trained nurses perform an exam, process and save potential evidence, and talk with them about their situation and the traumatic event that brought them to the ED. “Victims are strong,” Goodwin said. “It takes a lot to come here as a victim. We all understand that. They come in asking for help, so our job is to be there in that moment.”

Every Journey is Different

The neurobiology of trauma is that your brain is overloaded and short circuiting. It triggers an emotional response versus a logical response. “Some people only need an exam and psychological counseling while others leave needing resources for legal help,” Goodwin noted. “It's all part of what we do for our patients.”

The Bay Area is home to a large number of different cultures and backgrounds. This can present challenges when abuse victims come to the ED. Goodwin explained, “Part of our training is sensitivity to various cultures who may need to be approached differently, based on their backgrounds and beliefs. While we need to establish what events took place, we want to approach victims in a manner that is comfortable for them.” That cultural sensitivity extends to the large LGBTQ plus community in the Bay Area. Goodwin noted this group faces increased violence.

SART members are trained specifically to keep up to date with cultural norms and episodes of abuse against members of specific groups based on religious, ethnic, cultural or sexual orientation. They attend an annual state wide multidisciplinary summit that includes health care professionals, law enforcement, district attorneys, community advocates, and others with the sole goal of helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Goodwin takes what the team learns and brings it back to share with the entire Washington Hospital ED staff.

“We are trying to empower people in the community that may be victims of sexual assault or violence,” Goodwin said. “Some people don't know what to do after they're victimized. They don’t know that it's important to report the incident and they’re scared.” This seminar will share the resources Washington Hospital provides the community, including how to connect with victim advocates such as SAVE.

For more information on services provided by Washington Hospital, visit To learn more about SAVE resources, visit their website at To register for this upcoming seminar, go to