BERWICK, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A big step forward is coming to a local hospital to help victims of sexual assault.

It now has a newly formed sexual assault nurse examiners team.

Sexual assault is pervasive in the U.S. and in Pennsylvania. It’s why several nurses at Berwick Hospital Center decided to team up and train victims of abuse.

“These are all just the different envelopes where each step of the exam is completed,” Rebecca McHugh says.

A sexual assault evidence collection kit is all too familiar to Berwick Hospital Center’s Rebecca McHugh, RN. The certified sexual assault nurse examiner has completed eight sexual assault exams in the past six months, and many more before that.

“Unfortunately, a very small percentage of sexual assaults get reported,” said Rebecca McHugh, RN, sexual assault nurse examiner, ‘Sane’ director.

Mchugh is on call 24/7 to handle the hospital’s sexual assault exams. Soon she will have help. Two fellow nurses and a nurse assistant are becoming certified in sexual assault examiner training including Tess Singzon, RN.

“We want to be a resource to vulnerable people who have been a victim of sexual assault and we want to be there for them and give them resources,” Singzon said.

Sexual assault exams can take two to four hours to complete. The mental toll the exams take is experienced by nurse examiners a secondary trauma McHugh believes the new team will help ease.

“Someone needs to be there for those people and it needs to be someone who wants to do it,” explained McHugh.

And help ease a heavy and even stigmatizing burden sexual assault victims experience.

“And so that’s a driving factor, too, for us to do whatever we can do to take that trauma away from them, absorb it from them so that they don’t have to go through it alone,” said Singzon.

Another way the team is doing that is through a hospital staff donation drive to provide sexual assault victims clothing, household items, and even toys.

“We want to be there for them and give them resources that they don’t have available to themselves otherwise and we just want to help them feel better,” stated Singzon.

And achieving that goal through a team approach.

“How important it is to have a team like this in a community hospital that they don’t need to travel 45 minutes away,” McHugh expressed.

McHugh says the sexual assault nurse examiners team will be properly certified this summer at Berwick Hospital Center.

To learn more about ‘SANE’ or Sexual Assault Nursing Examiner check out their website.