FORT LEE, Va. (April 28, 2011)-April of each year is Sexual Assault Prevention month. The goals of the U.S. Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program include not only prevention of harassment and sexual assault but also provision of timely mental health and medical care for the treatment of sexual assault victims. As part of this medical care, the Kenner Army Health Clinic Active Duty Clinic provides comprehensive medical care to Fort Lee active duty and AIT Soldiers who are victims of sexual assault.

Registered nurse Ivey Sweeney and Sandra Heflin, a nurse practitioner, are the team designated to care for these sexual assault victims during clinic hours of operation. Additionally, the clinic coordinates with local civilian emergency rooms that provide emergency and after-hours care for sexual assault patients.

This medical care also includes offering the victim the opportunity to receive a forensic exam to collect evidence in the event he or she wishes to report the assault to the police. It is extremely important that the victim receive this evidence-collecting exam as soon as possible after the assault, and that the victim does not bathe or wash clothes after the assault before the evidence collecting (forensic) exam. Currently, the KAHC has a memorandum of agreement with St. Mary's Hospital in Richmond to provide emergency care and all forensic exams to Fort Lee sexual assault victims.

Soldiers who are victims of sexual assault should first call the Fort Lee sexual assault 24/7 Hotline at (804) 894-0029. This phone will be answered by an installation victim advocate who provides assistance in helping the victim access all needed services provided by the Army, including but not limited to medical and mental health care. The victim advocate will contact Sweeney, and she will assist in coordinating needed services from KAHC.

Medical services provided by the nurse practitioner during an exam include evaluation of any injuries, sexually transmitted infection screening tests and treatment, provision of emergency contraception, and referrals to specialists and the KAHC Community Mental Health Clinic as needed. All patient care is private, and medical information is strictly confidential and protected by law.

All of these services discussed are available to both male and female Soldiers who are sexual assault victims. The Soldier should call the hotline and begin accessing medical care as soon as possible after the assault incident, as some medications, such as emergency contraception medications, have a window of time within which they should be given to be most effective. Soldiers are eligible for these services whether they do or do not want to report the assault to the police, and this decision does not restrict their access to care. Additionally, KAHC provides any follow-up testing or treatment the Soldier needs after the initial visit to the emergency room and/or the initial evaluation by the nurse practitioner.

Sandra Heflin has been a family nurse practitioner working in the Active Duty Clinic at the Kenner Army Health Clinic since 2008. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, Salisbury University in Salisbury, Md., and the University of Virginia. Heflin has also served in the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps.