KGH program supports victims of sexual assault and domestic violence across the region

News / General
By Matthew Manor

Every patient who comes to our hospital has individual needs that can present a new challenge for staff, and this is especially true when patients come to Kingston General Hospital as victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse. Just this past July, our Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Program (SA/DV) helped 28 victims, making it the busiest month ever for the program.

"It's a sign that people are more aware of the services we have available for these victims," says Donna Joyce, Manager of the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Program. "But it also demonstrates that domestic violence and sexual assault are still real problems that we can become more educated about." Joyce has been with the SA/DV Program since it came to KGH in 2004, and she's seen a growing awareness about KGH services for SA/DV victims, with an average of ten visits each month. The program serves both pediatric and adult victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, with confidential facilities inside KGH, staffed by specially trained SA/DV nurses and social workers. The program also offers training to local police and other support groups, helping them to identify and understand the signs of sexual assault and domestic violence. And lately the SA/DV program's profile has been on the rise as Queen's University students return to town and a new sexual assault campaign kicks off. The Don't be that Guy poster and information campaign is the latest, and it zeroes in on the perpetrators of sexual abuse, taking the responsibility away from the victim and placing it where it belongs. "We have a huge influx of students into the city, and they fill out the most vulnerable age group of 16 to 24," she says. "So it's important that we get the message out to them that sexual abuse is preventable and visible. Everyone has to take responsibility and recognize that any sexual encounter requires full consent." The SA/DV program is confidentially located within KGH, protecting victims who need a safe environment. SA/DV nurses and social workers work on-site and in the community to support and treat those who need help, and Kingston police often defer to the SA/DV program for evidence gathered in a variety of ways, including photographs. "It's another part of our continuum of care, and we should always be prepared to identify instances of sexual abuse or domestic violence when it comes to our patients," says Joyce. Anyone seeking help or advice from KGH's Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Program can contact the emergency department or switchboard and ask to see the SA/DV nurse on call.