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Indiana center would help sex assault victims

– The volume of sex assault crimes in northwest Indiana has prompted one nurse to make plans for a special treatment center for victims.

Sexual assault nurse examiner Nancy Healy is leading the effort to open a special treatment center in June in Schererville, Ind., about 25 miles southeast of Chicago.

“It’s going to be staffed 24/7 ... for adults and pediatrics,” Healy told The Times.

Licensing is being finalized for Healy’s nonprofit medical center, which would rely on grants, donations and fundraising, Healy said. She is working with several official and private regional organizations.

Healy’s proposed center would be modeled after similar facilities in Chicago and Fort Wayne.

The volume of sex crimes is already forcing some hospitals in the region to expand their care. All hospitals in the Indiana region near Chicago offer specialized care for sexual assault victims.

Franciscan Alliance treated 108 sexual assault victims at its local hospitals last year. Methodist Hospitals reported 117 sexual assault cases at its Gary and Merrillville campuses combined during the same period. Fifty-five of those were pediatric patients.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said he believes the true number is higher.

“It’s larger than what we know and are actually dealing with,” Carter told the newspaper.

Healy says privacy is a primary concern for the victims and that the proposed center would be in a discreet location.

“Privacy is huge,” said Michelle Resendez, who coordinates sexual assault treatment for the northern Indiana region of Franciscan Alliance. “When patients come in with a sexual assault, they’re considered critical parties.”

Hospital staff limit victims’ exposure to workers. And victims are limited in how many times they have to repeat their story, to minimize further trauma, according to Resendez.

Sex assault victims also are often treated in seclusion from the emergency department.

“These are victims of assault,” said Cindy Mele, nurse manager of the emergency room at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary. “We want to let them know they’re safe. It’s humiliating, it’s upsetting. Think of all the emotions,” she said.

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Information from: The Times

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