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Meritus Health
  SAFE Program


Approximately one out of six women will be sexually assaulted within their lifetime in the U.S. Unfortunately, according to the 1999 National Crime Victim Survey, 72% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to police.

Meritus Medical Center’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Program was established in July 2003. The SAFE Program was modeled after successful programs in existence in several other states. The purpose of the program is to provide a comprehensive and compassionate approach to the treatment of victims of sexual assault and abuse.

Sexual assault includes all forms of sexual activity performed on another person without consent: fondling, unclothing, genital contact, and other sexual acts . Rape is a term defined as unlawful sexual intercourse by force.

The SAFE Program nurses work collaboratively with criminal justice agencies, Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused (CASA), SafePlace Child Advocacy Center, and other Washington County agencies that address the needs of victims of interpersonal violence.

Victims brought to Meritus Medical Center are medically screened by the emergency department staff. Specially trained forensic nurses are on call to care for sexual assault/abuse victims of all ages.

Victims may elect to consent to evidence collection within five days of an assault. The victim may choose to speak with police immediately to initiate an investigation. In some cases the victim may choose to delay the report. Meritus Medical Center’s forensic nurses are able to work collaboratively with law enforcement and other agencies to meet the needs of the victim while preserving evidence that may be used in an investigation.

Advantages of the SAFE Program
Given the physical and emotional trauma of sexual assault, victims benefit greatly from the comprehensive services provided by the SAFE Program.

  • Initial crisis intervention and social support for the victim of alleged assault/abuse
  • A complete evidentiary exam for the victim of alleged assault/abuse, including medical evaluation, evidence collection, and evidence preservation
  • Community education for both citizens and professionals
  • Victim-centered care provided by a Maryland Board of  Nursing certified forensic nurse examiner for the duration of the examination
  • Screening for medication prophylaxis
  • Appropriate referrals
  • Expert testimony provided by SAFE nurses regarding exam findings

SAFE Program services are provided free of charge to victims who file a police report or who choose to delay the report. Individuals not wanting evidence collection can be seen and evaluated solely by the Emergency Department staff and billed in accordance with normal hospital procedure.

For further information please contact the organizations below.

Crisis Hotline
Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused (CASA)
Available twenty-four hours a day

Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Program
Meritus Medical Center
Pamela Holtzinger, RN, BSN, CEN
Forensic Nurse Examiner
Program Coordinator
301-790-8352 (Non-emergency number)


© 2010
Meritus Health
11116 Medical Campus Road
Hagerstown, MD 21742

TDD: 1-800-735-2258
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