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Closing the Gap: Creating the First SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner) Hospital Program in Rhode Island (RI SAFE)

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $599,966)

Rhode Island (RI), the nation’s smallest state and has only a handful of Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners (SAFEs) and lacks a coordinated, statewide response to sexual assault survivors (SAS) including the state’s most vulnerable citizens. OVC funding will allow RI to make substantial gains to close this gap by creating the first SAFE Program in Rhode Island (RI SAFE). The mission of the RI SAFE Project will be to ensure equitable access to quality, trauma-informed medical and forensic care that supports SAS and coordinates access to community supports to promote healing and justice.  The Project will consult with OVC’s Technical Assistance Partners to accomplish the following:


(1) Four hospitals with statewide reach, Rhode Island Hospital, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Miriam Hospital and Newport Hospital, will work in collaboration to develop a mobile, SAFE Program that follows the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, staffed by trained SAFE providers (Nurses and Advanced Practice Providers),  

(2) SAFE training will be conducted in accordance with National Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Education Guidelines, and supplemented with RI-specific training including content developed and delivered by local experts including; the state’s rape crisis advocacy groups, RI’s Attorney General’s Office, local police departments, clinicians with focus mitigating trauma and others,

(3) An expert SAFE Director, SAFE Educator and Coordinator, will be hired to support this effort, including coordination of a statewide 24/7, on-call schedule, provision of on-going education and vicarious trauma resources to support a resilient, SAFE workforce.

(4) Efforts will be implemented at all four hospitals to create a culture of trauma-informed survivor care, that supports patient access, choice, safety, confidentiality and quality forensic exams through mandated training for all emergency department clinicians and staff, with specific training for hospital interpreters to ensure linguistic access for survivors,

(5) A Quality Assurance system will be developed that maintains patient confidentiality, yet provides important metrics to guide patient care and program development,

(6) Partnerships with community rape crisis advocacy and law enforcement will be strengthened to facilitate appropriate information-sharing, with patient consent, to support survivor healing and access to justice.


The project leverages existing expertise and all four hospitals will commit financial and human resources to this project to ensure long-standing sustainability. The RI SAFE Project anticipates serving close to 200 patients annually when fully operational but will be prepared that the need may grow as more SAS learn about these critical and supportive services.

Date Created: December 16, 2021