By: Jade Fadrowski, Contributing Writer and Keri Luise, News Editor
Photo by Brendan Felch
The Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) of Towson is seeking to help local victims of sexual abuse and trauma with a new unit, which opened Feb. 13, specifically designed for these victims.
“With our increasing volumes, we want to ensure that our patients are treated in an environment which is safe and secure for patients and staff, provides physical and psychological comfort for patients, and has the capacity to accommodate victims with disabilities,” said GBMC clinical program manager Laura Clary. “The new facilities will match the high-level compassionate care being delivered to every patient, every time by our SAFE/DV [Sexual Assault Forensic Examination and Domestic Violence] team.”
The new unit includes an added examination room and interview room for investigators and patients. The 2,500-square-foot space is designed to be a comfortable place for victims to feel safe. This unit is the first of its kind in Baltimore County.
“The new exam rooms will be state-of-the-art, housing the equipment needed to provide the highest quality of care,” Clary said. “The second exam room has minor modifications to the original design allowing for concealed properties specific to the needs of the pediatric population. In this way, our team will be prepared to care for any patient across the lifespan, seamlessly within that space, further supporting our program vision.”
According to Clary, the SAFE Program originally had a private unit close to the Emergency Department with two small offices, a shared bathroom, and one examination room.
“While we only had one fully-equipped SAFE exam room and no private waiting room, we started having numerous occasions where patients arrive simultaneously,” Clary said. “While we certainly have the trained staff to accommodate our increasing volumes, we didn’t have the space. A second room has been so beneficial in getting these patients through faster.”
According to Clary, the new interview room will allow forensic interviewers and detectives to “conduct interviews in a way that will be not only more efficient, but also less distressing to the victims and their families.”
“Technology includes audio-video capability and additional security measures to ensure that victim privacy is protected and chain of custody is maintained,” Clary said about the rooms. “Fortunately, these technology upgrades do not come at the expense of patients’ comfort. The suite has been designed to be soothing and as comfortable as possible for adult as well as pediatric patients.”
According to GBMC’s website, the SAFE program is coordinated by registered nurses, who are specifically trained to care for victims of rape, sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence. GBMC provides medical-forensic examinations and collects forensic evidence which gets submitted to the Baltimore County Police Department’s Crime Lab.
Allison Seeley, TU’s assistant director of health education and promotion, supervises the Sexual Assault Peer Education program on campus and connects with GBMC’s SAFE program through this.
“The work that GBMC does to provide sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) exams to the greater Baltimore area is a great resource for those impacted by sexual violence, and this recent opening has provided increased resources and space to do just that,” Seeley said. “We are very glad to see GBMC has expanded their space to better support survivors of sexual violence who are interested in a SAFE exam.”
The new unit is available to all individuals in the area.
“It’s a good resource because now Towson students have access to get help,” said TU junior Taylor Stonsky. “It’s important to know where you can get medical care besides school.”
The SAFE program at GBMC is located at 6701 N. Charles St. in Towson. To learn more about the program visit gbmc.org/safe for more information. If you need support, call the programs private hotline at (443) 849-3323 or the GBMC emergency department at (443) 849-2225.