The VPP Team: from left Sara Heidbreder (AG Counselor and Advocate), Abidemi Abioye (VPP Manager), Quinn Davis (AG Counselor and Advocate), Kate Lawler (VPP Director), and Theresa Gaudio (SANE Coordinator). Not pictured, Kelsey West (Data Assistant).
Late one night, SCH Nurse Theresa Gaudio received a call asking her to come back to work in the ED. A woman had just arrived in ED and they feared that she had been sexually assaulted. The ED staff asked Theresa to return to do a specialized examination that only certified and specially trained SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) can provide. After 6 hours, working through the night, Theresa arrived back to her home at about 3am, exhausted and emotionally drained.
Such is the committed work of a SANE and her colleagues in SCH’s Violence Prevention Program (VPP). Theresa and five other members of the VPP provide medical assistance, counseling, resources, guidance and comfort to survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking whenever they are needed-day or night.
What began in 2014 as a request by the Illinois State’s attorney’s office and FBI to help fulfill an unmet need, SCH’s Violence Prevention Program has blossomed into a nationally-acclaimed program that is one of only eight in the nation to be awarded a prestigious, $950,000 federal grant through the Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime to enhance hospital based victim services. Together, these six team members provide an invaluable service to the community by helping survivors of interpersonal violence. Let’s meet the members of the Violence Prevention Program:
Kate Lawler: Director of the VPP
Kate oversees the overall administration of the program, including supporting survivors, working with partner organizations, training and education, policy development, grants administration, data tracking and analysis, community outreach and representation of Swedish on several city-wide task forces. Kate has over 20 years’ experience working with women in health care settings, and non-profits, and has overseen the VPP since its inception, 5 years ago. Kate is grateful to be part of the VPP team. As Kate explains, “In previous jobs, I saw many situations of violence, especially against women and girls and felt that I didn’t have a way to make a systemic change. The VPP is different; with the support and resources of a healthcare system behind us, it is the perfect opportunity for us to support and provide options to survivors that can make a lasting change in their lives”.
Abidemi Abioye, Manager of the VPP
Born in Nigeria, Abidemi moved to the U.S when she was 12 years old and grew up in the Chicagoland area. Abedemi began working with survivors of domestic violence as a Facilitator for Apna Ghar and conducted research on public health issues at Center for Asian Health Equity with the University of Chicago. Abedemi joined the VPP team in early 2019, and feels that this is the perfect position for her; it combines her social work and public health experience, while allowing her the opportunity to interact with survivors. According to Abedemi, “In my role I can focus on the public health aspect, I can analyze data AND I connect with survivors. I really enjoy my job because even though it’s challenging, I feel that I’m helping people in crisis, and providing them with more choices for their future”.
Theresa Gaudio, SANE Coordinator
As an RN, Theresa has been working in the hospital setting for over 38 year —23 of them at SCH. She currently works in the Emergency Department as a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Coordinator, where she ensures that the hospital is in compliance with the most up-to-date laws pertaining to SANE personnel, and that our SANE nurses are provided current educational opportunities. Theresa is committed to VPP because she believes this program saves lives. According to Theresa, “I just want to make sure that survivors get the best care. If we can give them the most helpful information and excellent medical care in the most caring way, then we can change one person around. That’s why I’m doing this- I want to make a difference.”
Sarah Heidbreder, Apna Ghar Counselor and On-Site Medical Advocate
Sarah works at Apna Ghar (a local, domestic violence agency) as a counselor during the week, but has office hours once a week at SCH, where she provides short and long-term counseling to any survivor referred to her from the VPP. When asked why she enjoys her role with VPP, Sarah quickly responds, “It’s very inspiring to work in such a collaborative and compassionate environment. To know that the hospital system is so invested in interpersonal violence makes me feel good. I know that I can really contribute to this program and help survivors.”
Quinn Davis, Apna Ghar Counselor and On-Site Medical Advocate
Like Sarah, Quinn also works primarily at Apna Ghar, but has weekly office hours at SCH, where she provides short and long-term counseling to survivors of the VPP. Quinn is delighted to be working with the VPP, and refers to it as her “dream job”. Quinn goes on to explain, “I get choked up about it, for me, it is extremely meaningful. I get to help someone in a life changing way; I’ve had jobs were I didn’t feel that way. These are survivors that I have a lot of empathy for. It is very meaningful and I love it.”
Kelsey West, Data Assistant
Kelsey works to input, organize and track patient data for reporting and analysis.Kelsey enjoys being part of the VPP team because with her experience in the hospital setting and as a domestic violence advocate, she sees the program as a wonderful merging of the two. Kesley goes on to explain, “It’s an amazing program. The way that VPP team members are able to meet survivors at the hospital is the perfect place to start services, or just provide survivors a place that is safe to talk to a counselor. I think this is why VPP is so unique.”
The passion and commitment of the VPP team resonates load and clear. Together, these individuals create a program that makes a differences not only for the survivor of interpersonal violence, but for each team member as well. To help the Violence Prevention Program continue making a difference, please contact the SCH Foundation at Foundation@swedishcovenant.org or 773.293.5121