“I want to let people in Nanaimo and Oceanside know about the help that is available to them if they experience this type of violence. I also want to share the knowledge of how they can help others if they see something happening,” she explains.
Falkenberg has been a Forensic Nurse Examiner since 2008, and is the coordinator of Island Health’s Forensic Nurse Examiner Program for Central and North Vancouver Island. The program supports survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and is accessed through Island Health Emergency Departments, including Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s. Starting on September 15, this service will also be available at Oceanside Urgent Care.
Island Health has 30 forensic nurse examiners, including Falkenberg. They are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They care for people of all genders and ages who have experienced sexual assault and/or domestic violence, and can see survivors up to seven days post sexual assault and domestic violence.
They also work with health, social and legal services to make sure survivors are supported beyond the examination room.
”We care for the physical injuries survivors have, offer medications to help prevent sexually transmitted infections and more, and we provide the option of collection of forensic samples,” said Falkenberg. “If the survivor chooses to report the incident, we give samples directly to police.”
Forensic samples can also be collected and stored for up to one year, if the survivor of violence is undecided about reporting the incident to police. As Falkenberg explains, it is the survivor’s choice whether or not to report the incident. “We provide three options for care and listen to their needs,” said Falkenberg. “It is non-judgemental.”
The FNE Program has a Sexual Assault Response Provider on staff to provide support and follow up care for all patients who have experienced sexual assault and have received care from an FNE. This includes assistance with housing needs, safety planning, and connecting with counselling or community victim services. In this way, the FNE Program can bridge the gap between the hospital and the community once a survivor leaves an FNE’s care.
All Island Health emergency departments can provide access to the Forensic Nurse Examiner Program. Until September 15, when this service will be accessible in Oceanside, those in the Oceanside area can go to Oceanside Urgent Care to be referred to the FNE team at NRGH.
People can also arrange for care by phoning the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.