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Taking Action to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Assault

by Erica Gourneau, RN, BSN, National Forensic Nurse Coordinator, Division of Behavioral Health, IHS HQ

April marks both a somber and hopeful month for sexual assault awareness and prevention.  Indian Health Service staff, along with many tribal partners, have taken part in events around our great nation to highlight the experiences of sexual assault survivors, educate our staff and the public about local resources, and to celebrate our community strengths.

However, sexual assault awareness and prevention should not only take place in April. There is still much to do to support survivors in our communities and for sexual assault to be prevented in the first place. Here are a few ways everyone can take action throughout the year to prevent sexual assault and to help sexual assault survivors recover and be supported: 

  • Teaching respectful behavior to children-Can sexual assault prevention be taught during late childhood and early adolescence? Yes! By teaching the use of consent in everyday interactions, teaching concern for how one’s actions affect others, and helping children and adolescents react appropriately to negative responses will not only prevent sexual assault but may also prevent intimate partner violence and bullying.  For additional sexual violence prevention strategies, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s sexual violence prevention site: Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving 
  • Becoming a Medical Forensic Examiner-Responding to sexual assault survivors appropriately is the responsibility of all healthcare workers. However, there is a particular need within the Indian Health Service and tribal communities for increased access to high-quality forensic health care. Professionals trained as Registered Nurses, Physician’s Assistants, Family Nurse Practitioners, and Doctors (MD or OD) that are serving American Indian/Alaska Native patients are eligible to participate in free forensic examination training for adult/adolescent sexual assault, pediatric sexual abuse, and intimate partner violence through the Tribal Forensic Healthcare Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  website.

Related content:

Sexual Assault Support

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving 

IHS Forensic Healthcare

Erica Gourneau, RN, BSN, National Forensic Nurse Coordinator, Division of Behavioral Health, IHS HQ
Erica Gourneau, RN BSN SANE-A serves tribal communities and the Indian Health Service under the Division of Behavioral Health as the National Forensic Nurse Coordinator. Ms. Gourneau assists tribal communities and Indian Health Service staff in building and sustaining forensic healthcare programs that use culturally appropriate evidence-based practices.