By CHERIL VERNON
For Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Jessi Jones, the blankets and bears she receives from the Palestine Blankets and Bears Children’s Fund organization can mean the world of difference to a terrified and trembling child — or even an adult — who has just been brought into the hospital after reporting sexual abuse.
“The reason the Blankets and Bears Children’s Fund is so important is because the teddy bears are vital to my job. I use them to comfort the kids and use them to educate kids about their anatomy. I try to show them there are people out there that care — that not all adults are bad,” said Jones, R.N.C., CA/CP, SANE during an interview with the Herald-Press.
Jones has used the bears to do a complete forensic exam — as the child watches so they won’t be as scared when it is their turn.
“It helps them relax,” Jones said. “When it’s over, they hug the bear and then they hug me sometimes. It’s never easy to hear a child talk about sexual abuse. But it’s my job to help the child be able to be brave enough to do it.”
Just in her two years since she has served as a SANE for Palestine Regional Medical Center, she has seen 63 cases of sexual assault that range from young to old. Jones has served a total of 13 years at PRMC in labor and delivery, where she continues to work as well.
“I’ve seen small children to the elderly — men, women, boys and girls,” Jones said. “Sexual abuse doesn’t discriminate.”
More than just teddy bears and blankets — the Blankets and Bears Children’s fund raises money for community education to specifically raise awareness about sexual assault and to provide a sexual abuse prevention program at area schools.
The non-profit Palestine organization also is hoping to raise funds to provide a new piece of equipment for the local SANE program.
“By introducing this new colposcope with forensic software, our local small town SANE program will be able to offer state-of-the-art imaging that is usually only available in big city programs,” Jones said. “The old equipment we have is dated and less than ideal. The new equipment would help exams be quicker and more efficient and enable me to assist law enforcement and attorneys involved in sexual assault cases. It’s more efficient in locating injuries and photo-documenting injuries.”
Jones also is hoping to be able to eventually have her own SANE room for exams. She will need an exam table, proper lighting, drying rack and a cabinet for supplies.
“Most children go to hospital and have to go through a complete physical exam with a stranger, which is very scary and uncomfortable,” Jones said. “If we can offer them more privacy where they can be more comfortable, it could only be a benefit to the patient not matter what age they are.”
Jones said she was personally surprised to learn about the sexual abuse problem in Anderson County when taking the job.
“I assumed all children were safe in their homes, but I am now painfully aware that is not the case,” Jones said. “I’ve made it my passion to help kids who have been sexually abused and I’m excited to serve as a volunteer for the Blankets and Bears organization that shows that same passion. I’m humbled that the community is stepping up to help the SANE program fight against sexual abuse.”
Jones also has learned that sexual assault doesn’t just affect the victim — it’s a community problem.
“Sexual abuse has a domino effect that affects everyone including schools and churches,” Jones said. “I was completely unaware until I became a SANE. That’s why it’s so important for the community support and to support Blankets and Bears to rally against child abuse.”