When a person is sexually assaulted, it is important for them be able to access legal, medical, emotional, and mental health care quickly and easily. A new Hancock County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), launched last year, is seeking to do just that. SART is a joint effort between local law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, and medical professionals who work together to provide comprehensive care and justice for victims of sexual assault. This effort includes a team of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), local nurses who are trained and ready to provide medical and forensic examinations.
One in five women in the United States experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes, while nearly a quarter of men experience some form of sexual violence, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Nationwide, 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men report some sort of sexual assault or harassment within their lifetime.
Thanks to a grant from the Office of Women’s Health and the Indiana State Department of Health, local victims no longer must travel to Anderson or Indianapolis to undergo a special medical and forensic examination. Instead, they can now be treated locally at the Knightstown Health Care Center during business hours or in the Hancock Health emergency department after hours. Advocates hope this makes the process a little easier for people who are in crisis situations.
What is a sexual assault examination?
When someone is sexually assaulted, they may need professional care for their injuries, including the physical, mental and emotional. A sexual assault examination is intended to treat injuries and offer follow-up care, support, medication, and resources. The examination may also include a forensic examination, which is a specific examination to collect evidence for law enforcement and prosecutors seeking to identify, charge and convict the perpetrator.
What happens during the medical portion of the exam?
Trained medical professionals perform the sexual assault examination. The healthcare providers include a team of local Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners who understand the importance of sensitive, empathetic care during this vulnerable and frightening period. The medical portion of the examination includes a head-to-toe exam to identify injuries and offer treatment as needed, including medications that may prevent sexually transmitted infections. Patients will also be referred for follow-up care and offered other necessary resources.
What happens during a forensic examination?
The forensic examination involves documenting any injuries and collecting evidence like bodily fluids to for law enforcement and prosecutors. A special assault kit is used to safely collect and store evidence before it is handed over to law enforcement.
Frequently asked questions
Do all sexual assault victims need an examination?
A sexual assault examination is designed to provide assistance and resources to the victim. However, adult patients are in control from start to finish. Patients can decide what portions of the medical examination they want to undergo and whether they want to also have a forensic examination to collect evidence. If a patient is unsure about reporting an assault to law enforcement, they have up to a year to decide if they want the evidence forwarded.
Where can someone go for a sexual assault examination?
Sexual assault examinations by a trained Sexual Assault Nurse can be obtained at the Knightstown Health Care Center during business hours or in the Hancock Health emergency department after hours.
Is it confidential?
The examination and any results are completely confidential unless the victim is a minor. Health care professionals are mandated reporters and must report any suspected sexual assault in minors to the proper authorities.
What does it cost?
There is no cost for the examination
Can a friend or family member be present?
Once again, the patient is in charge. If space is a consideration, the patient may be asked to limit the number of support people present during the examination. Or the patient may opt to have no one else present.
How soon should a sexual assault examination be done?
Ideally, sooner is better, especially when it comes to collecting forensic evidence after a sexual assault. Evidence can be collected for up to five days after an assault. However, there is no limit to how long a person can wait to undergo the medical portion of the examination.
What resources are available for sexual assault victims?
There are several local resources available to provide follow-up care:
Alternatives Incorporated serves Hancock, Hamilton, Henry, Madison and Tipton Counties and provides support and education to eradicate domestic and sexual violence in Central Indiana. A 24-hour crisis line is open at 866-593-9999.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is open at 800-799-7233.
The Healthy365 Connection Center offers information on community resources, including healthcare, support groups and legal and protective services.
March is Self-Harm Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to raise awareness about what self-harm is and how you can help people who struggle with the behavior. Self-harm is often a well-hidden concern, causing intense shame and emotional distress. While the typical definition of self-harm does not include suicide, self-harm can indicate that someone is at a higher risk of suicidal behaviors. Let’s look at the facts about self-harm and how it can be successfully identified and treated.
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is defined as hurting oneself intentionally. Many of us think of cutting as a primary form of self-harm, but self-harm may manifest in other behaviors like hitting oneself, burning oneself, picking at injures and pulling hair. Although most people tend to think of self-harm affecting children and teens, adults are not immune to it. Self-harm affects all ages, genders, and socioeconomic classes.
You may be reading this and wondering why anyone would want to harm themselves. The answer is complex and often dependent on the individual. People may be trying to experience physical pain to overcome emotional pain. They may have difficulty expressing their feelings. They may feel numb and use self-harm to force themselves to feel something. Most people report an immediate sense of relief when they self-harm, due in part to the brain’s release of beta-endorphins in response to pain signals. Unfortunately, that release is short-lived and is often followed by feelings of guilt of shame.
What are the signs and symptoms of self-harm?
People who engage in self-harming behaviors may be very proficient at hiding the telltale signs. That’s why loved ones should be on the lookout for certain symptoms:
- Scars and scratches, often forming words or patterns.
- Wounds or burns with no clear explanation.
- Frequent and excessive rubbing of the skin to create a burn.
- Bite marks.
- Wearing long sleeves, even in hot weather, to keep arms hidden.
- Depression and difficulties with interpersonal relationships.
- Unpredictable behavior and mood swings.
What are the risk factors?
As we said above, self-harm can affect anyone, even people who seem outwardly happy and carefree. However, there are certain factors that increase the risk for self-harm. These include:
- Having friends who self-harm.
- Showing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress.
- Struggling with substance misuse disorder or eating disorders
- Feeling isolated.
- Experiencing stressful situations.
- A history of abuse or trauma
- People who are struggling with gender identity and sexual orientation.
Treating self-harm behaviors
Treating self-harm behaviors often begins with therapy to address the underlying reasons for the behavior. An effective therapist can help the patient tackle underlying emotions and learn new methods for handling stressful situations. If a person is also experiencing depression, substance misuse or other mental health challenges, those must be addressed in order to stop self-harming behavior. Medication may be used to treat those underlying issues. In some cases, family therapy can help parents and siblings learn how to understand and support their loved one as they work to get better.
Left untreated, self-harm can lead to mental health issues, severe injuries, and suicide.
What if you or someone you love is showing symptoms of self-harm?
If you’re engaging in self-harming injuries, or if you notice telltale signs like cuts, scratches, or unexplainable injuries, you may not know where to find help. That’s why it is important to reach out to someone you trust, whether it is a counselor, mentor, medical professional or friend. Many people may not know where to start when they want to seek therapy or support for self-harming behaviors. The Healthy365 Connection Center can begin this walk alongside you. Our support navigators are available to refer you to local services that provide the resources you need to overcome self-harming behavior.
Self-harm is a serious concern, but it isn’t one you need to bear alone. If you are worried about yourself or someone you love, reach out now to the Healthy365 Connection center at 317-468-4231.
As we move through National Eating Disorders Awareness Month, let’s look at eating disorders and the myths associated with them. Eating disorders are on the rise, affecting approximately 24 million people in the United States. Despite the prevalence, there are many misconceptions and false beliefs about eating disorders, starting with what they are.
Eating disorders is a broad term for several psychological conditions that can lead to unhealthy eating habits. Many people associate eating disorders with anorexia nervosa, a condition where people resort to restricting food and relying on unhealthy activities in an attempt to reach an unnaturally low weight. Other eating disorders include:
Bulimia nervosa involves eating large amounts of food over a short time, followed by purging via actions like vomiting, excessive exercise or taking laxatives.
Binge eating disorder is a condition where a person will eat large amounts uncontrollably over a short period of time without purging. Similarly, binge eating disorder can cause marked distress.
Many eating disorders are associated with shame and embarrassment, which is why it is important to openly discuss these conditions. Eating Disorders Awareness Week, scheduled for February 27-March 5, focuses attention on eating disorders as it works to educated and provide hope and support to people who are struggling. Like many mental health conditions, though, eating disorders are associated with a number of misconceptions. Therefore, by understanding the facts around eating disorders, we may be in a better place to recognize them among ourselves and the people we love. Read on for some common myths and learn the facts.
Eating disorders mostly affects rich teen girls
Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of their age, sexual orientation, gender and socioeconomic status. Most people with eating disorders fall between the ages of 12 and 26, but eating disorders can and do affect people in their 40s, 50s, 60s and higher. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, one in three people with an eating disorder are men.
People with eating disorders are always underweight
Many people associate eating disorders with people who are extremely thin, and that can be the case with people who are struggling with anorexia, which is characterized by a significant reduction in food intake. However, other eating disorders like bulimia and binge eating disorder may not be associated with low body weights. Binge eating disorder, the most common type of eating disorder, often affects people who are overweight or obese.
They are a choice
Eating disorders are complex medical conditions. There may be biological or sociological factors involved. Many patients also struggle with other mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, or substance use disorders. Eating disorders tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic link. People with eating disorders are already struggling with feelings of worthlessness. Calling them a choice diminishes their complicated causes, which even the most accomplished researchers do not completely understand.
They aren’t really serious
This myth can have devastating consequences. Eating disorders can cause serious medical issues, including brittle bones, cardiac problems, and kidney failure. Left untreated, they can be deadly.
Eating disorders do not respond to treatment
If there is any good news in the discussion about eating disorders, it’s that they can and do respond to treatment. Recovery can take months or even years. Relapse is not unusual. Because of this, treatment must also address other underlying issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, and nutritional concerns. An effective treatment plan seeks to restore physical, behavior and psychological health, and these changes require work and commitment. For instance, treatment can involve intensive inpatient care, or it may only require outpatient care with a trained mental health provider. Your healthcare professional can help you make this important decision.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, help is available. If you would like additional support or want to speak to a support navigator, reach out to the Healthy365 Connection Center at www.behealthy365.org or call 317-468-4231. You can also find additional information and links to treatment at the National Eating Disorders Association website at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
Valentine’s Day may be hyped as a couple’s holiday, but there’s no rule that says you must celebrate the holiday in pairs. Whether you’re in a comfortable relationship or you’re spending the day solo, the Healthy365 Connection Center has some suggestions for taking care of you on Valentine’s Day and beyond. Read on for ideas on how you can show yourself some much deserved love and pampering.
Have a day for yourself
Are you the person who takes care of everyone else? Do family members look to you to remember to refill their prescriptions, make their hair appointments and decide what you’re having for dinner every evening? What about work? Are you the employee who always answers emails promptly and commits to being a team player? As noble as their attributes are, there’s something to be said to taking a day off from all of your responsibilities. If your work schedule is flexible, cash in a vacation day and spend it doing whatever you want to do, whether that involves poking around museums like the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home & Museum, taking a walk along one of our many public trails or hanging out in your jammies all day. Even if you can’t play hooky for a day, treat yourself to your favorite carryout lunch and tell your family they’re going to take over dinner duties – or at least give you a hand cleaning up afterwards.
Give yourself flowers
Somewhere along the line a lot of us bought into the belief that flowers are something you let other people buy for you. Go ahead and smash that stereotype by ordering a lovely bouquet to be delivered to your door. Or, you can pick up some colorful blooms at the grocery store when you’re shopping. According to research done by Rutgers University, flowers can immediately impact your happiness levels and may have a long-term positive affect on your mood. It’s been a long time since we had flowers blooming outside – go ahead and bring some back into your life.
Plan a spa experience
Extravagant spa experiences can be costly, but you can recreate some of the pampering at home. Fill the tub, throw in a bath bomb, and light your favorite candles. Skip the harsh drugstore soaps and instead grab a bar of locally produced goat milk soap. Lock the bathroom door and give yourself 30 minutes of privacy. Follow up with a pumice stone scrub of your heels, which have been hiding under socks and boots for the past few months.
Get a (hotel) room
There’s something especially luxurious about letting someone else worry about making the beds and cleaning the bathroom. Hotel rooms aren’t just for couples on vacation or business travelers. They can also be a place to take a break for just an evening. Order in your favorite dinner and eat it in bed while you catch up on whatever’s playing on the hotel’s cable television platform. The beauty of this idea is that it can be shared with someone special, whether it’s a spouse or a BFF. Or, you can plan a solo outing where you don’t have to worry about sharing the remote and agreeing on a room temperature.
February is also American Heart Month, so Valentine’s Day is a good time to look at your health and fitness levels. Even if you’ve fallen into a couch potato routine, it’s never too late to incorporate some exercise into your daily habits. Call up a playlist on your phone and get in some steps during your lunch break. Are you ready to take your fitness to a new level? Check out one of the three Hancock Wellness Centers in Greenfield, McCordsville or New Palestine. You can even sign up for an optional two-pack of 60-minute massages when you join online! Consider it a Valentine’s Day present to yourself.
Phones and computers have become increasingly ubiquitous. On one hand, it can be convenient to have so much information available in your pocket. You may appreciate being able to see your loved ones on a video call or catch up on an electronic novel while you’re in the doctor’s waiting room. But we can also become immune to the noise these devices bring into our daily lives. You could be missing out on valuable time with loved ones because you insist on winning an internet argument with some strangers who are never going to change their minds. Too much screen time can have a real negative impact on our mental health. Give your brain a break for one evening and keep your screens set to the “off” position. You can plug back in tomorrow.
Write it all down
“Dear Diary – today is Valentine’s Day, and I don’t have a date to the big dance.”
OK, it’s been a while since you kept a diary. Maybe you were gifted a pretty, blank journal that you filled out once or twice before life got in the way. That’s all right. There are no rules for jotting down your thoughts, and you can start over any time. Consider doing a gratitude journal that helps you focus on what’s good in your life. Or, write that angry letter to your ex that you’ve been composing in your head, because sometimes it helps to see it on paper. (You don’t have to send it. In fact, you may want to keep it to remind you of why you’re so much better off on your own.) While you’re in the writing mood, jot down a note to a friend or relative who is on your heart. Handwritten notes go a step beyond a quick text or email and will be cherished by the recipient who knows you went the extra mile for them.
Have a movie night
When was the last time you went to the movie theater? Pick an interesting flick and treat yourself to a screening. If you’re not crazy about sitting among strangers, plan an at-home event. Prepare some popcorn and play around with different toppings, like garlic powder, lime zest or cinnamon sugar. Stream one of your old favorites like “Dirty Dancing” or “Grease.” Or, focus on an action flick that completely avoids the whole boy-meets-girl storyline and leaves you cheering for the hero.
This Valentine’s Day, put yourself first. You deserve to be mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy. If you need assistance in your wellness journey, contact the Healthy365 Connection Center at 317-468-4231 or reach out online. You are never alone.
Are you listening? If you want to start 2023 with new ideas and motivations, consider plugging into a podcast or audiobook. It’s a great way to make time on the treadmill go by quickly. Double your efforts and give your brain food for thought while your body is getting stronger. We asked the Healthy365 Connection Center team to recommend mental health audiobooks and podcasts for your playlist. Check out some of their thoughts below.
“Unlocking Us” podcast by Brené Brown
Brené Brown is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker who focuses on the subjects of shame, vulnerability and leadership. For example, her TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” is one of the most viewed TED talks ever. “Unlocking Us,” a series of podcasts introduced in 2020, takes listeners on a journey of connection, courage, vulnerability and conversation. Brown tackles subjects like “Being Heard and Seen,” “Vulnerability and Laughter,” and “Grief, Gratitude, and Connection.” As a result, she focuses on helping her listeners focus on their self-worth and wellness.
“Therappuccino” by Bisma Anwar
Bisma Anwar describes herself as a “therapist, coffee lover, healer, helper, dreamer, and globe trotter.” She is a licensed mental health counselor who focuses on anxiety, cognitive behavior, stress management and depression. In her Therappuccino series of podcasts, Anwar discusses topics like “Holistic Nutrition and Mental Health,” and the “Impact of Media on Mental Health.” If you’re currently struggling with a case of the winter blues, treat yourself to her December podcast on “Winter Coping.”
“Straight Up” with Trent Shelton
Trent Shelton, a former NFL wide receiver, bills himself as bringing listeners “the truth you need to hear – even if it’s hard to take.” The former Indianapolis Colt has endured his own personal struggles and issues as he worked to make peace with the nagging injuries that ended his NFL career. He urges listeners to recognize their self-worth and greatness, inspiring them to live better lives in any circumstances. After all, he refers to his followers as “Rehabbers,” and offers thought-provoking podcast topics like “Don’t Quit on Yourself Because They Quit on You.”
“Love Your Whole Body” with Jessica Lacy
Who doesn’t need this message? As a holistic life coach, Jessica Lacey’s podcast series is for people who are “tired of a one-size-fits-all approach to health and wellness.” Christina DeWitt, one of our Healthy365 support navigators, recommends giving “Budgeting For Your Body” a listen.
“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD
This book digs deep into how scientists and therapists are working together to help survivors heal from the trauma of their past. Van Der Kolk explores how trauma can reshape both the brain and the body, affecting an individual’s ability to concentrate or develop trusting, healthy relationships. Van Der Kolk has extensive experience researching the effects of trauma on brain function, memory and treatment outcomes. This book may help listeners begin to heal and help their brain recover from years of struggle.
“What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing” by Bruce D. Perry, MD, and Oprah Winfrey
Yup, we’re talking about that Oprah Winfrey. This book takes a conversational approach that looks at how an abusive childhood can cause lifelong brain trauma. It goes on to explore the different ways survivors can create their path to recovery. Winfrey offers an honest recollection of her own childhood trauma and discusses its effects and treatment with Perry, a leading expert on childhood trauma. So many times a person is asked “What’s wrong with you?” when a better query might be “What happened to you?” By exploring these experiences and understanding their consequences, listeners may become more attuned to their own mental health needs.
“The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober: Discovering a Happy, Healthy, Wealthy Alcohol-Free Life” by Catherine Gray
In this book, Catherine Gray describes her own sobriety journey. Listeners may relate to her experiences with a cycle of drinking, making bad decisions, swearing off alcohol and repeating the cycle when she starts drinking again. The book reads like a novel as listeners explore the benefits of sobriety.
Listen up! The new year is a great time to incorporate new habits into your daily routine. Adding a podcast or audio book may be just what you need to start your journey to a new and better you. Are you looking for more local resources for substance misuse and mental health treatments? Reach out to the Healthy365 Connection Center, and we’ll start this journey with you.
Trauma and shame are often intertwined with addiction and substance misuse. For many people, it’s an endless, frustrating cycle:
- Shame causes feelings of pain, self-loathing, and isolation.
- Individuals seek to numb these feelings with substances like drugs or alcohol.
- Substance misuse leads to more shame, which fuels continued issues and insecurities.
Shame can be caused by several factors. These include traumatic experiences, personal insecurities, internalized negative beliefs and a lack of love and validation from others. Let’s dig deeper into the root causes of shame and how it can affect a person’s ability to ask for help.
What is shame?
Shame is often used as a synonym for guilt, but these two emotions are very different. Guilt implies a feeling of despair or sadness over something you did. Your moral compass is telling you that you should not have done something. Shame, on the other hand, is an internal emotion where you focus on your whole self, rather than an action. It may not be related to a behavior or event. Instead, your brain is telling you that you are somehow inadequate and unworthy of love and acceptance.
Trauma is sometimes – but not always – a contributor to shame. A child who is abused at home or bullied at school may internalize these messages and believe they are inadequate as a person. An adult who has been mistreated by someone they love or trust may blame themselves instead of holding the other person responsible. These feelings of shame can take over, manifesting as low self-esteem or even self-loathing. Over time, these can lead to isolation or insecurity, both fertile grounds for addiction and substance misuse.
How can shame and trauma lead to addiction?
Shame can permeate the spirit. It has been linked to depression, mental illness and addiction as its victims struggle to cope with their feelings. While some people may be able to enjoy the subtle warmth and calmness that can come with a glass of alcohol, a person who is dealing with shame may grab onto alcohol’s numbing qualities like a life preserver in a turbulent sea. Unfortunately, the waves keep crashing and they find themselves reaching for that life preserver again and again. To continue the analogy, the life preserver or substance is never enough to stop the waves, and the shame of needing that life preserver leads to additional negativity and isolation.
Shame can also stand as a barrier between a person and the help they need. A person struggling with the potentially volatile combination of shame and substance misuse may feel they don’t deserve to be helped. They may build a wall around themselves, afraid to be vulnerable and honest with others. They are afraid others will reject them for the very reasons they reject themselves.
It is a vicious cycle. But help is available. With the correct intervention and therapy, mental healthcare professionals can help people break the pattern.
Healing from shame
When someone is seeking help for substance misuse, they also must address the shame that can derail any progress they make. This is not an overnight strategy – healing from shame takes time and often requires the assistance of a counselor or mental health professional. Working together, they may be able to uncover the root causes of shame, whether it came from a traumatic upbringing or a combination of internal and external factors.
People who are dealing with shame and trauma often have a hard time caring for and about themselves. The compassion and grace that are so easy to disperse to other people may be difficult to apply to their own hearts. A counselor may be able to help.
Addressing substance misuse shame
The shame of substance misuse presents its own challenges. The very shame that is fueling substance misuse can be the force that sabotages successful recovery. Trained mental health professionals can help people develop new practices and skills to address substance misuse while also treating the shame that accompanies it.
Everyone deserves to be happy and loved. Read that again. Everyone deserves compassion, even when they believe they are unworthy or inadequate. The Healthy365 Connection Center is here to help anyone who reaches out, whether it’s online or at our offices at 120 W. McKenzie Road in Greenfield. When you reach out to Healthy365, one of our trained support navigators will listen without judgment and work to connect you with local resources. Our free and confidential services are available to all Hancock County residents.
As we venture into the new year, resolve to take care of yourself. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance misuse or other mental health issues, reach out now. You are not alone.