There are many people in our community working to create positive change to end sexual violence. We want to feature as many of them as possible. If you would like to submit a recommendation, please email email@example.com.
Rape culture exists because many myths about sexual violence persist. I use any opportunity to teach and find that misinformed people aren’t bad—they just don’t know better. Knowledge is the best weapon we have.
– Ginesse Barrett
1. What is your relationship with STAR?
I am the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program Coordinator at University Medical Center, which serves adult and adolescent survivors in Orleans Parish. We perform forensic exams, offer medical treatment and prophylaxis, and testify in court as expert witnesses for male, female, and transgender survivors. STAR provides our patients with medical advocacy services and ensures they will always have a connection to community resources as they go through the healing process.
2. What led you to your work in sexual assault response?
The first decade of my nursing career, I worked as an Emergency Department (ED) nurse. I saw first-hand how most hospitals in our state were not equipped to properly handle all the complex needs of patients who had been sexually assaulted. I became a SANE so I could ensure the best care to my patients in the ED, but I couldn’t stop there — I joined the SANE program at Interim LSU Hospital in 2010 on an on-call basis. When the previous Program Coordinator left to go back for her Master’s degree, I took the reins and left the ED to focus on SANE full-time. I enjoy working in a field of nursing where I compassionately care for patients and also assist in creating a stronger justice system and safer city. I truly love New Orleans.
3. What do you find most rewarding about your involvement in sexual assault response, and/or the movement to end sexual violence?
I have so much admiration for our patients. It takes an incredible amount of strength to walk into an emergency department and request a SANE exam. Many patients enter our space traumatized from an assault and terrified that the hospital experience could be even worse. My goal is that every person leaves better off than they came. We focus on giving the patient autonomy with each piece of the exam so they can start to feel back in control of their life and make the transition from victim to survivor. I find it extremely rewarding to have helped make their experience better in any way.
4. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging?
My husband is my biggest supporter — there is absolutely no way I could do my job without him being such a great father and understanding partner. Not many spouses would be so tolerant when I leave in the middle of the night for a case or spend a week away for a conference while he juggles our day-to-day lives including a five-year-old and his own job. My daughters are amazing as well! Having a family that believes in me and the work that I do is priceless.
5. What are some simple, day-to-day ways you promote positive change in your community?
I love educating the community about sexual assault and SANE. Mostly I lecture to nursing and medical students, advocates, law enforcement, and healthcare professionals, but I try my best to never turn down a speaking opportunity with any group because I see everyone as a potential juror or perhaps the first person to whom a survivor trusts to disclose an assault. Rape culture exists because many myths about sexual violence persist. I use any opportunity to teach and find that misinformed people aren’t bad—they just don’t know better. Knowledge is the best weapon we have.
6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about becoming an active member of this movement?
I think people tend to be intimidated by the thought of getting more involved. Sexual assault has been a taboo, uncomfortable topic which is avoided by most, but you don’t have to actually work in the field to make a difference. Something as simple as getting more educated yourself and being able to speak up when you hear myths being perpetuated, or looking for opportunities as a bystander to intervene and prevent a sexual assault can truly change our society for the better. Statistically, we know everyone has a friend or family member who was sexually assaulted, so it should be a cause that makes us all passionate.
STAR’s NOLA office is training volunteer advocates this summer to perform phone and medical advocacy. To learn how to get involved, visit our website!