‘Forensic nursing’ idea of online Frontier Nursing University student could help victims of domestic violence in rural areas

Unseen and unspoken, rural victims of domestic violence are more likely to suffer alone because of geographical isolation, lack of medical support networks, and an “everybody knows everybody” small-town culture that can keep victims from asking for help.

With the help of a Tillman Foundation scholarship, Leslie Copp, a nurse who grew up in a home with domestic violence, aims to change some of that in rural Indiana, reports Liz Carey of The Daily Yonder. “Copp is an online graduate student at Frontier Nursing University, located in Versailles. Her nursing work includes caring for trauma victims and gathering evidence for prosecutors. She wants her graduate education to help her specialize in trauma care and establish trauma care centers in rural communities like her hometown of Odon, Indiana, pop. 1,400.”

Forensic nursing is an emerging field that many students may not know exists. Copp began her medical career as a Certified Nurse Assistant, then earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing, but along the way, “realized she enjoyed taking care of trauma victims and helping as a forensic nurse to collect evidence to assist in prosecuting abuse cases. She said she feels born to work as a forensic nurse examiner.” She told Carey: “I was raised at the very first of my life in a home where I dealt with watching my mother go through domestic violence. I didn’t realize that the trauma that I had been through as a young adult would set the base for something that I would grow to love. I turned my trauma into something that I could do to help others.” Carey reports, “She intends to pursue a doctorate in nursing practice and to become a mental health nurse practitioner.”

Copp told Carey: “In Indiana alone, there are wide areas where there are no resources or care for victims of trauma or violence. My goal is to start with one (rural trauma care center) and plant it in a place that has the widest area of no coverage so that we can at least start providing medical exams (for trauma victims) and point people in the right direction.” Part of the dilemma in gathering prosecutorial evidence from victims is timing and victim bandwidth for the process, Carey writes. By the time a victim is treated at their local hospital, they don’t have the energy to go to a metro hospital for another work-up. “Even if a nurse sees them in a metropolitan area, the patients get lost in the system without access to resources like trauma therapy, advocacy services, and support systems.”

Frontier Nursing University Assistant Professor Dr. Joshua Faucett told Carey, “Copp’s experience as a nurse and violence survivor made her a good candidate for the scholarship. . . . Leslie is a sexual assault nurse examiner and has testified on behalf of sexual assault victims to bring their abusers to justice.” Carey adds, “Copp’s goal is to create a trauma center in a rural area that could both do medical exams and help victims gain access to social workers, prosecutors, and emergency housing.”

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