Early in her nursing career, Dr. Analena Lunde, ’18, ’13, a Doctor of Nursing Practice and Master of Science in Nursing graduate, suspected there was more going on with some of her patients than she was being told. At the time, she was working in an emergency room in the Northern Virginia suburbs around Washington, D.C. Often, because of the patients’ behavior or injuries, she would wonder, “Is this person a victim of abuse or intimate partner violence?”
This was nearly a decade ago, and there wasn’t yet a great deal of training, awareness, or openness about sexual violence in either the medical community or the community at large. “Most healthcare providers essentially had blinders on when it came to these patients,” Lunde says. “If patients didn’t volunteer the information, providers didn’t ask.”
Today, Lunde is working hard to make sure healthcare providers, members of law enforcement, and community members approach each sexual violence survivor with both their eyes and their minds open. That job is more challenging now that she’s moved to rural Dickinson, North Dakota, and works as a community-based, grant-funded Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and nurse manager.
When she began working with Central Dakota Forensic Nurse Examiners, people in the community would tell Lunde, “We don’t have sexual assaults here.” There was a lot of hesitation to talk about sexual and intimate partner violence, although Lunde knew all too well that it could happen anywhere, to anyone.
To overcome that stigma, she and her team built relationships with partners in the community, including the local rape crisis center, the Catholic hospital that serves the area, and local law enforcement. “Word-of-mouth was the best avenue for spreading awareness and getting the word out about our services,” Lunde says.
In late 2017, the rise of the #MeToo movement helped expand awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault around the world. In Lunde’s community, many survivors saw that they were not alone and didn’t have to keep their experience a secret.
“Awareness and education are the most powerful tools we have to not only reach and help survivors but also to prevent this from happening,” she says. “All the nurses in the program do outreach and take every opportunity to educate people about the signs of sexual violence and human trafficking and where they can turn for help.”
Although Lunde warns of human traffickers who use social media to target victims, she has used social media to disseminate helpful information to her community. “Our Facebook page provides information and links to resources and our partner organizations,” Lunde says. “We have programs in the local prison and are trying to get into schools and businesses.”
Lunde uses her experiences—both as a SANE and as a Title IX and affirmative action investigator handling complaints of sexual misconduct, harassment, and gender-related violence at Dickinson State University—to spread education to her community in hopes of making a difference. She includes information on screening for sexual assault in the nursing courses she teaches as an assistant professor at Dickinson State so the next generation of nurses can continue the conversation brought into the spotlight by #MeToo.
“Sexual violence can happen anywhere,” Lunde says. “As healthcare providers, it’s our duty to become educated about sexual violence and human trafficking. We can’t turn a blind eye.”
Just as the #MeToo movement helped women all over the world see that they aren’t alone in their experiences, Lunde hopes that her work will leave an impact on survivors and providers alike.
“There are so many resources available that we can use to learn more and can share with our colleagues, friends, and families,” Lunde says. “We all need to be advocates for each other.”
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The nation’s leading grassroots voice on domestic violence
Futures Without Violence
A nonprofit organization with the goal of ending domestic and sexual violence
Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs
An office committed to changing attitudes, policies, and practices to promote justice and healing for all victims of crime