COVERSA is about providing service to victims of sexual assault, providing education to nurses to properly collect forensic evidence and educating the community about sexual assault issues, and collaborating with police, legal and judicial representatives.
Before COVERSA (founded in 2000), a sexual assault victim’s only option to receive treatment and guidance was to go to an emergency department; often waiting several hours in busy, congested waiting areas. In some cases, victims were examined by healthcare providers not specifically trained in sexual assault, who lacked the proper skills and sensitivity to handle the special needs of sexual assault patients. As a result, many victims opted not to go through with the exam, leaving their physical care and emotional needs left unmet.
Today, COVERSA serves sexual assault victims at regional hospitals in both Kansas and Missouri.
Dr. Heather Isom, Medical Director
Heather Isom, MD, FACEP, was appointed medical director for COVERSA in 2018. Her medical career spans over 20 years in emergency medicine. She is also a trained Sexual Assault Examiner. Dr. Isom currently serves as the medical director of the Fast Track program at Truman Medical Center and is an assistant professor at Emergency Medicine Truman Medical Center/University of Missouri Kansas City.
COVERSA hires independent contractors that are registered nurses or nurse practitioners trained as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs). The SANE nurses are specially trained in the forensic collection and provide care to address the victim’s emotional and medical needs as well as evidence collection needs for the prosecution. SANE nurses strive to preserve their patients’ dignity and ensure they are not re-traumatized by the evidence collection process. SANE nurses help patients gain control by allowing them to make decisions throughout the interview and evidence collection process.
Gathering forensic evidence includes collecting the victim’s clothing, conducting a thorough physical assessment, and specimen collection. SANE nurses are specially trained in identifying patterned injury, documenting and photographing injuries, maintaining chain of evidence, and providing expert witness testimony.
COVERSA provides emergency contraception to the patient who is at risk of becoming pregnant and antibiotics to prevent sexually transmitted infections that may have been contracted during the assault. The SANE then provides the patient convenient, comprehensive, community resources for follow-up care.
Special Exam Rooms
COVERSA provides a designated exam room at each location in an effort to provide a private, comfortable setting equipped with an exam table, digital camera and in some centers a colposcope. The instrument magnifies genital tissue and is an important asset in identifying vaginal trauma. In the legal arena, the colposcope is well documented as a superior accepted practice when examining sexual assault victims.