Program Spotlight: Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center (DV/SAC) of Prince George’s County

Feb 01st, 2024

In this edition, we spoke with Christine Cooley MSN, RN, SANE-A, Manager of the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center (DV/SAC) in Prince George’s County. To learn more about DV/SAC, visit their website here

1.     What makes the Prince George’s County community you serve special?

Prince George’s County is special because of its cultural richness, diverse population, and community investment and partnership. The special commitment we share with all our community partners and residents allow us to work collaboratively to address the challenges that our clients face during their most difficult time. The commitment of individuals giving back creates a positive impact, addressing the unique needs of clients and survivors and strengthening the bond that makes this community network distinct.

Sexual assault is a crime that may last only minutes but the effects to many victims can feel like a bomb was dropped in the center of their world. Everyone that victims comes in contact with is going to affect how they heal. One of the most important aspects of the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center is that no matter where that person comes from, we will respond with empathetic and compassionate wrap around services. Because this type of trauma affects all aspects of their lives, we are there to respond in ways of referrals to local resources, like legal, housing, and counseling. A victim can receive help the minute they walk through the hospital doors and can continue years down the line during their healing journey. With the help of our community contributions, donations, and volunteers we are able to provide basic needs to victims in the aftermath.

I have never seen a community demonstrate such compassion and commitment in their support to a center and ultimately the survivors. It is the little things that can change a victim’s experience after possibly the worst day of their lives. Our Center is equipped with handmade blankets, snacks, coloring books, stuffed animals, and extra clothing to provide hope and comfort during this traumatic experience. The Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center is able to provide such wrap around services because of the combined expertise and experience our staff holds. From licensed forensic nurses, counselors, and trained advocates who can provide support and advocacy. Our staff can walk alongside these victims to navigate difficult processes such as medical exams and legal proceedings.

2.     Tell us about the DV/SAC’s current community prevention efforts.

Violence does not discriminate and can occur at any age, against any nationality, and any gender. Prevention starts from youth all the way through the lifespan. Targeting schools, high schools and colleges in particular to education on sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and human trafficking. We have dedicated staff that create partnerships in the community to provide trainings and education among audiences like, law enforcement, medical staff, students, and social groups. We are partnering via a shared grant with the SAFE Center of UM to train both hospital staff and community partners on Human Trafficking and developing a county wide responds to assisting these victims once recognized. The training includes education related to grooming, recruitment, risk related to runaways, and the dangers of social media sites. In January we are having a symposium with topics such as gang related trafficking and recruitment, familial trafficking, trauma responses, mental health, and child sex trafficking.

3.     Why are you a member of MCASA?

I am honored to be a part of MCASA because I can be an ambassador for their mission in supporting victims and survivors in their journey and educating the community. The only way to achieve this monumental task is to work directly with the network of compassionate visionaries that assist in streamlining the care and treatment of these victims.

4.     What called you to your work?

I started my forensic career seeing victims of sexual assault at a hospital in the Baltimore region approximately 10 years ago and from the minute I started down this journey I knew this was my passion. I wanted to give these victims a voice and help them to paint a picture of the violence that they had sustained. As a forensic nurse I am able to do this through the written account of the event and the photographic, and DNA evidence collected. The pain these victims experience resonated with me and I knew that striving to standardize these exams and evidence collection was paramount.

Since being the manager at the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center, I have strived to hire a group of forensic nurses that are trained in pediatrics sexual assault, adult sexual assault, and strangulation. I am working with three of the University of Maryland hospitals that see sexual assault patients in their forensic centers to standardize the way we perform exams. Our goal is to implement the same training, paperwork, process, and policies to deliver patient centered trauma informed care that is consistent across all campuses. This allows us to take what is usually a small community with limited resources and draw from a larger network of experts that span across Harford County, Anne Arundel County, and Prince George's County. I do this work for all the victims that walk through our doors after a traumatic event to help empower them and begin their process of healing.

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