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College of Nursing Offers Educational Conference for Those Who Care for Victims of Sexual Assault


The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Nursing is offering a free forensic nursing conference April 24-25 for sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) and others who provide care for victims of sexual assault. It is called The STEP-UP Extravaganza: An Inter-professional SANE Conference.

Dr. Andrea Sebastian

“Sexual assault is a major problem in West Tennessee, one that we have not had the resources to address completely. But through our SANE education programs and this conference, we hope to assist providers with the education and resources needed to provide trauma-informed care to those who have suffered these assaults,” said Assistant Professor Andrea Sebastian, DNP. Dr. Sebastian is the principal investigator on a $1.5 million Health Resources and Services Administration grant that funds community and academic SANE education options for advanced practice nurses.

The Crime Victims & Rape Crisis Center (CVRCC) in Shelby County served 3,939 victims of crime in fiscal year 2021. About 20% of those victims, 751, were victims of sexual violence.  

But there were only five certified SANEs throughout the 21 counties of West Tennessee in 2020, Dr. Sebastian said. Fifty-four nurses are enrolled in the UTHSC SANE program. Eleven work as SANEs in Shelby County, and nine work as SANEs in Jackson, Tennessee.

The two-day forensic nursing conference is for advanced practice nurses, physicians, registered nurses, law enforcement, attorneys, patient advocates, and other community partners. Local and national experts and speakers will present information essential for all members of the interdisciplinary forensics team with an emphasis on the educational needs of the SANE.

Topics to be covered include sexual abuse in children, toxicology considerations, a sexual assault survivor’s story, specific types of injuries, understanding the role of the SANE in the courtroom, intimate partner violence, and self-care while helping others. A complete agenda and registration links for the free conference can be found at cenow.uthsc.edu. The event will be held at The Central Station Memphis Hotel at 545 South Main Street.

The keynote speaker will be Clinical Professor and Director of the Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing at Texas A&M University School of Nursing Stacey Mitchell, DNP. She will speak on “Forensic Nursing: Past, Present, and Future.”  Dr. Mitchell has developed and delivered SANE education programs for more than 23 years. She is the founder of the center of excellence at Texas A&M. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a focus on forensic nursing from the UTHSC College of Nursing.

Survivor and author Michelle Corraro of Indiana will speak on “A Story of Triumph over Tragedy: Your Role in the Journey.” Corraro is an international bestselling author, keynote speaker, and an advocate for victims of violent crimes. She led the charge to create Central Indiana’s first Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), focused on victim-centered, trauma-informed care. She is the executive director at The O’Connor House in Carmel, Indiana, where she leads programs that provide women who are single, pregnant, and homeless with housing and opportunities to improve their lives.

Corraro said she shares her story so that others might understand what is possible. “I understand feeling alone and helpless. I felt like I would never be happy or safe again. But feelings don’t tell us the truth about the future. I couldn’t have predicted the horror I would face as a result of that attack, nor could I have predicted the beautiful life that was able to grow out of the ugliest circumstances imaginable.”

Other speakers at the conference include:

  • Lauren Burge, MD, a child abuse pediatrician at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UTHSC, and a member of the Child Advocacy Resource and Evaluation Services (CARES) team at Le Bonheur;
  • Alison Rudd, EdD, FNP-C, an associate professor at the University of South Alabama;
  • Heather Lenzy, a special agent and forensic scientist manager for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation;
  • Assistant County Attorney Megan Ryan in Rockingham County, New Hampshire;
  • Kate Winter, victim witness coordinator, Rockingham County Attorney’s Office;
  • Jennifer Johnson, DNP, assistant professor at the UTHSC College of Nursing, president and co-founder of the Academy of Forensic Nursing, and president and owner of Johnson Legal Nurse Consulting, LLC;
  • Dr. Gary W. Osborne, LPC, MHSP, psychotherapist.