National Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Specially trained nurses care for assault, abuse victims

Liz Webster

Liz Webster, RN is a SANE-trained nurse.

April 27, 2021

Every April, we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a month focused on raising awareness about sexual assault and educating communities and individuals on preventing sexual violence. 

Sadly, sexual abuse and assault occur often in our community, impacting people of all ages and backgrounds. In 2019, the Friendship Center, a local nonprofit, served 113 victims of sexual violence, an 85 percent increase from the year before. SANE nurses at St. Peter’s Health play a critical role in response when abuse or assault occurs.   

Today, 12 registered nurses at St. Peter’s are SANE-trained. These nurses respond to patients in our emergency department who have experienced sexual assault or abuse regardless of the time of day or day of the year. When needed, a SANE will assist survivors by assuring their body is taken care of medically, collecting forensic evidence or 'rape kit', and helping connect the victim to other community resources like The Friendship Center. The Friendship Center is the tri-county area’s safe haven for those affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to empower our community to flourish in relationships free from violence.

Liz Webster, RN has been a nurse for 10 years and a SANE-trained nurse for two years.

"I was not interested in becoming SANE trained, but when the training was offered to me in 2019 I decided to attend. The training was exceptional and ignited a passion in me to provide the best possible care to people who are sexually assaulted. Providing compassionate and competent care can reduce re-traumatization, and that's my goal every time," said Liz. "Making sure someone's body is taken care of, empowering them in the exams, and connecting them with resources is the right thing to do and I'm proud to do it.”

Expanding SANE program access

Liz and fellow SANE nurses are committed to establishing a formal SANE nursing program at St. Peter’s, which will continue to ensure that patients always have access to highly trained, compassionate and specialized nurses.

"We are working on starting the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) for adult survivors in Lewis and Clark County. I am proud to be a part of starting the SART, and it is a pleasure to work with such a dedicated multi-disciplinary team. If you are ever wondering if people in Lewis and Clark County care about sexual assault awareness, they do!" said Liz.

Receiving care from a SANE means that you will have a nurse who is not only an expert in medical care but has received specialized training in trauma informed care and evidence collection. These nurses work in collaboration with other professionals in the community through process review, the use of relevant best practices, and peer support.

St. Peter’s Chief Nursing and Patient Experience Officer Cindy Bultena, MSN, RN, currently serves as the Vice President of the Friendship Center Board of Directors. 

"The partnership between our SANE Nurses and the Friendship Center is very strong. Liz Webster has been a passionate leader advocating for expert clinical and compassionate care for those who experience sexual assault. I serve on the Board of the Friendship Center and am so proud of the impact that has been made by her leadership."


Local help is always available for sexual assault and abuse victim

  • St. Peter’s Health Emergency Department at 2475 E. Broadway Street in Helena is always open
  • Friendship Center’s 24-hour hotline: 406-442-6800
  • National Confidential Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673

Anyone can be an advocate to end sexual abuse and violence

Learn more about how you can speak up and step in by connecting with the Friendship Center or the National Sexual Assault Violence Resource Center.