HEALTH

Nurse uses personal experience to help sexual assault survivors

BY Lyndsay Christian, Producer and Correspondent |

There was a candlelight vigil in Jersey City Saturday following a gruesome murder. A woman was stabbed 44 times. The accused killer is her husband. This domestic violence awareness month, a woman who survived it has dedicated her life to dispelling the stigma and helping victims come forward. Registered Nurse Anthea Noel sat down with Lyndsay Christian.

Christian: Anthea, thanks for joining us and wearing purple to show your support of domestic violence victims and their families. It’s a very serious subject, obviously. According to state police, an act of domestic violence occurs every 7.29 minutes in New Jersey. And state police also report that in 2014 and 2015 the number of incidents reported decreased 1 percent. That’s disturbing.

Noel: Yes, it really is. Nationally, there are 23 reports of domestic violence for men and women including the elderly. The elderly is a big population also in the U.S. according to The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

Christian: Most people think only women are affected. So, you’re saying even senior citizens are vulnerable?

Noel: Yes. One in four women and one in seven men in their lifetime had been reported for physical violence.

Christian: And, unfortunately you were one of those four women. Years ago, you were a victim of sexual assault. Can you tell us more about that?

Noel: Yes, so when I was 22-years-old, I was a victim, well, I call myself a survivor. I was a survivor of sexual assault and it was an acquaintance. So, I felt ashamed, I felt guilty, I felt like it was my fault, so I didn’t say anything and I kept it under wraps and suppressed for about 12 or 14 years.

Christian: Wow, so is your experience what inspired you to become a sexual assault nurse examiner to help educate women?

Noel: Yes, so now I’m a sexual assault nurse examiner, which is S.A.N.E. for short. And, what we do is forensics studies and data collection for the prosecutors office for counties in New Jersey and it helps with the prosecution of the assailants.

Christian: And, working as a registered nurse, too, in Bergen County, you see a lot of cases even in hospitals in the ER?

Noel: Well, the emergency room is the first line where the women, or the men, come and we see them. So, I work in a level one trauma center in New Jersey and it’s very common to see women and men come in with bruising, with sexual assault. We treat them physically, but we also try to treat their emotional needs, also. And me, because I was there, I’m a survivor, I am able to talk to them and empathize with them more.

Christian: So, a lot of women aren’t as vocal. They want to remain silent, they don’t want to speak out about it, but what are some resources you can direct them to, some places where they might have a safe haven, if you will?

Noel: In the state of New Jersey, there are 23 resource centers, including the one Mayor Ras Baraka just opened in May, the Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center. And that was due to the untimely death of his sister, Shani Baraka, due to domestic violence.

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Christian: Wow, so 23 resource centers in the state of New Jersey. What are some signs people can look for, men and women, to recognize what could be considered a domestic violence situation?

Noel: Usually, when people are victims or survivors of domestic violence, they have a lack of eye contact. They’re usually secluded. They seclude themselves or their partners secludes them. And, you may see physical signs, bruising, any type of things. And excuses, excuses that don’t add up.

Christian: And, again not just women, but men. So it can be violence from a women to a man. That’s less common, but it happens.

Noel: It does, it really does and also children are involved, too. So, we need to stop the cycle. It’s very important.

Christian: What would be your message to women who are watching and men who are watching right now?

Noel: I would tell them to speak up. You have a voice. Seek help. Seek physical help, seek emotional help. There are resources, especially in the state of New Jersey, that can help you. We’re here to help you.

Christian: And, it’s all about helping each other. It’s a community effort. And you can even use social media, I’ve seen a lot of women speak out using #metoo.

Noel: Me too. Yes, I just posted something that said #metoo because I am a sexual assault survivor and it’s about having a voice.

Christian: And, changing the narrative. They are not victims, but you said survivors. Anthea, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your personal story.

Noel: Thank you so much for having me.

TOPIC: HEALTH