In March, the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre (VSAC) sent out one of its three annual direct mail campaigns to ask the community for support. We were excited about this campaign because it gave us a chance to spread the word about the critical work the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and highlight some of the important team members that make this service possible.
The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is comprised of support workers from the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE), police and RCMP. Together this team provides an immediate, collaborative and comprehension emergency service to anyone who has been recently sexually assaulted and offers support, information, medical care and referrals.
Not only a dedicated VSAC Board member, but Kelly Branchi is also a Forensic Nurse Examiner with the SART team. We took the opportunity to speak with Kelly about her dual role with the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre as well as hear her thoughts on the imperative work she does.
As a Forensic Nurse Examiner, some may say you have an incredibly difficult job. Do you like your work? I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It’s more of a passion than a job.
Tell us about your relationship with the VSAC support workers on the SART team? I absolutely could not do my job without the support of the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. When a SART worker is there to care for the emotional needs of the patient, it allows me to focus on collecting evidence meticulously, so I can be the best witness I can be. SART worker provide tremendous emotional support – it’s not me survivors remember, it’s the SART worker who got them a warm blanket and held their hand.”
You also sit on the board of directors. What does it mean to you to help steward the agency? When I joined the board I really wanted to understand what happened to survivors after they left the hospital, and it felt important to me to build a relationship with the Centre, since we work so closely together. This is an exciting time to be on the board. We’ve taken great strides as an organization to become more trans* inclusive, and it feels exciting to be part of this process. As forensic nurses, this is extremely important learning for us, and I’m seeing that across the country forensic nurses are embracing trans* inclusion, it’s one way we provide the best patient care possible.
As one of VSAC’s most active members of the Board of Directors Gratitude Committee (a committee formed specifically to work on thanking donors), what would you like donors to know? I wish every donor could come to the Centre and see the quilt survivors made, so you could see how important you are. The Centre belongs to the community, because you keep it thriving. The goal of the gratitude committee is to help donors feel part of our community. In our society, I don’t think we say thank you enough. And small donations deserve just as much thanks as large ones. I love to write handwritten cards, I want donors to feel special.
What do you think VSAC needs most to keep thriving? Resources are needed to provide continuous counselling without a waitlist. Why should someone have to wait for support and counselling?
Why do you think VSAC is needed? VSAC helps people re-build their life after what can be a very traumatic experience. VSAC helps bring people out of darkness and back into the light.
Kelly was just one of the SART members that we interviewed for our March direct mail campaign. To learn more about the Sexual Assault Response Team and its members, check out our newsletter (PDF).