TYLER, Texas —

At UT health East Texas in Tyler, Rebecca Fears along with her team of forensic nurses are dedicated to helping sexual assault victims. 

"You say that this has happened and we start treating you based on that,” Rebecca Fears, head of the forensic nurses team at UT Health East Texas said. 

UT Health East Texas Logo
UT Health East Texas Logo outside building

With four fully trained nurses to treat the trauma associated with sexual assault, they are working on getting more. 

"Right now we're struggling to maintain 24-7 coverage that's our ultimate goal, that's what we want,” Fears said. "We have two nurses in training, we have a third one that just started, we have another one that's starting hospital orientation." 

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Her goal is to get her team to ten nurses, to reach more people in need of help. 

In October Fears was named the first full time forensic nurse at the hospital and head of the department. During that time she's seen some common misconceptions associated with sexual assault. 

I Ask for Consent buttons
I Ask for Consent buttons

"Sexual assault has been in the media a lot this year, it's been a topic for conversation that started with #MeToo, and it's just kinda moved forward,” Fears said. “Last year there was an episode of Gray's Anatomy where a victim walked inside with visible injuries.” 

According to the nurse, that's not reality for most sexual assault victims.

"We may not see any injuries and it's okay to still come in for care," Fears explained. "We're going to still try and collect evidence up to 120 hours out." 

No matter how long it's been help is always available. 

"I worry about that, I'll worry that they'll open a website and say oh I wasn't supposed to take a shower, I wasn't supposed to change clothes,” Fears said. “Even if you do that, go ahead and take a shower and come on in." 

Sexual assault awareness month
Sexual assault awareness month banner

Fears also noted, there will always be someone available if you come into the hospital, but they're working on getting more forensic nurses so one is always in the room. 

Forensic nurses in Texas go through over 200 hours of training and exams.