Green Bay, WI -- April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It comes with a disturbing statistic. One in four girls will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday. In those tragic cases, help is available through a unique program at St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay.
"I didn't want my dad to know, that was the big thing. So I just never told anybody," said Lara Burroughs.
60% of sexual assault cases are never reported to police. Lara is part of that statistic. She was 18-years-old when a family friend attacked her.
"I was very alone and kind of went on a downward spiral after that," she explains.
Lara didn't know there was a network of support for sexual assault survivors. So instead of getting help, she found herself getting in trouble with the law.
"I was able to pull myself together, but so many people can't."
Lara eventually enrolled in nursing school, and now she helps other survivors through St. Vincent Hospital's SANE program which stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.
"We're giving a place for patients to come in that wouldn't necessarily fit in well with the ER. They're going to need a lot more time. They're going to need a lot more compassion and empathy," said SANE Coordinator Dana Steuber.
The SANE nurses perform head to toe exams and collect evidence used to prosecute the offender.
"9 times out of 10, we have to take all their clothing," explains Lara. "So we have a SANE Closet with donated clothing."
The SANE Closet is stocked with shirts, pants, shoes, socks and undergarments for all ages and both sexes.
Dana says, "It's just to make it from the hospital to home, that they can hold their head high and feel good about themselves when they leave instead of putting them in a pair of paper pants from the ER."
Dana is grateful to the community for helping patients through a traumatic time.
"I think it's fantastic. I mean people want to make a difference and this is a small way they can do this."
Lara continues to make a difference too.
She says, "You can heal. You can get over it. I guess that's what I want to be able to say to them."
Besides giving hope to those in their darkest hour, the SANE nurses also connect sexual assault patients to a network of support services. On some occasions, they even testify in court.
Right now, the SANE Closet needs donations of Spring and Summer clothing. The clothing can be new or gently used. Stretchy material is preferred. You can drop off or mail your donation to St. Vincent Hospital at 835 South Van Buren St., P.O. Box 13508, Green Bay, WI 54307-3508.
Click here for more information about the SANE program.