College of Nursing faculty member honored for work to aid victims of sexual assault

Friday, July 12, 2019

Wendy Williams-Gilbert of the WSU College of Nursing was honored by Lutheran Community Services Northwest for her efforts to expand training for sexual assault examinations in Eastern Washington.

Williams-Gilbert received a Partners in Justice award in a ceremony and reception last month. The awards are designed to recognize “individuals, businesses and organizations that excel at empowering victims of crime and helping them to achieve justice,” according to Lutheran Community Services Northwest, a nonprofit that offers trauma-focused behavioral health services, foster care services, and victim advocacy and education.

She helped drive introduction of a bill in the last legislative session in Olympia that would authorize the WSU College of Nursing to offer specialized training in gathering physical evidence of sexual assault or abuse in the emergency room.

Called SANE, for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, the program involves classroom instruction plus hands-on clinical skills training.

Said Williams-Gilbert when the bill was introduced, “Having been a critical-access nurse, I know that many rural nurses avoid doing sexual assault exams because they don’t do them often and are afraid of doing something wrong that could jeopardize the rape victim’s access to justice in the courts.” Williams-Gilbert is the WSU College of Nursing’s RN-BSN program director and director of professional development.

Currently, SANE training is offered in Eastern Washington just a few times a year. The bill, which didn’t make it out of committee, would have authorized the use of WSU’s tele-education technology and state-of-the-art simulation labs for the training by certified SANE trainers from the community.

Williams-Gilbert said she hopes the SANE legislation comes back for reconsideration in the 2020 session. It was introduced this year by lead sponsor Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale.

“Even though we didn’t make it happen the first time, this is so important to victims of sexual assault and to nurses that I’ll keep fighting for it,” Williams-Gilbert said. She added, “I’m honored to have been recognized by Lutheran Community Services Northwest, an organization I greatly admire for their services to victims of trauma.”