Victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking are found in every corner of the city-including the communities surrounding Swedish Covenant Hospital. Since 2015, the program has served over 1,000 individuals- including 728 victims of domestic violence, 266 sexual assault survivors and 49 individuals showing signs of human trafficking. The numbers are staggering, but Swedish Covenant Hospital decided to tackle the problem head-on.
The Violence Prevention Program (VPP) was developed to strengthen the hospital’s ability to identify and assist patients who are victims of violence The health care setting may be one of the only places where survivors are free from their abusers and have the opportunity to disclose their abuse—but this is only possible when a trusting relationship can be established. Unless that medical provider is trained to identify red flags and subtle signs of abuse, the opportunity to effectively help the victim is lost.
In order to take advantage of this potentially life-saving opportunity, the VPP trains healthcare providers to immediately identify victims through patient screenings, assess their immediate needs, provide them with comfort care packages and educational resources, and connects them with community-based partner agencies-including safe transport to emergency shelters, legal advocacy, and counseling.
Based upon the success of this model, as well as the VPP’s proven-track record, the program was recently awarded a $950,000 federal grant through the Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime to enhance hospital-based victim services. Swedish Covenant Hospital was one of only eight organizations nation-wide to receive funding. This 2-year grant will allow SCH to better identify survivors and connect them to medical care and support services to improve their physical, emotional and financial recovery. Specifically, the program enhancements include:
- Continue and enhance training for 1,000 clinicians in the areas of trauma informed care, domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual assault.
- Trauma informed medical, dental and mental health care for victims of violence.
- Sexual Assault Nurse Education (SANE) Training for 11 nurses to meet Illinois staffing mandates in 2022 and equipment to help strengthen evidence collection techniques.
- Off-hours domestic violence advocacy through a tele-health platform and our partner, Apna Ghar.
- A deeper connection with our current community partners, who include Apna Ghar, Between Friends, KAN-WIN, Salvation Army STOP-IT, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, and Resilience (formerly RVA).
- New community partnerships to provide housing and workforce development resources for victims of abuse, including Sarah’s Circle, YWCA, HANA Center, and Jane Adams Resource Corporation.
- Formation of a survivor-led advisory group and other leadership opportunities for survivors.
Healthcare providers are often the first defense for helping victims of interpersonal violence. Thanks to funding from the Department of Justice, SCH will now be able to deliver a comprehensive, survivor-centered program that will pull these victims out of the shadows and provide them with the resources needed to heal. Kate Lawler, Director of the VPP sums it up this way, “It feels very fitting to begin this grant in the New Year — a season of hope and new beginnings — this is what we want survivors of violence and abuse to find here at Swedish Covenant Health.”
To learn more about the Violence Prevention Program or how you can help, please contact the Foundation at Foundation@SwedishCovenant.org or 773-293-5121.