Michelle Markie is a sexual assault forensic examiner and registered nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor. She is one of two certified SAFE nurses at the hospital, a certification requiring a 40-hour class, hours of observation, ongoing education and practice administering rape kits.
A rape kit, officially known as a Maine State Sex Crimes Evidence Collection Kit, contains equipment nurses can use to collect DNA evidence, take photos of injuries and perform overall health exams of sexual assault patients. Information can then be used in court to corroborate a victim’s story.
Thirty-five victims were treated at St. Joseph last year, an increase from 2005 when Markie said there were fewer than 10. However, the state also has a shortage of SAFE nurses, less than 30, many of whom are clustered around service centers.
It’s a problem that won’t be solved easily as the role is not for everyone. However, that difficulty makes addressing it no less important.