LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. (WLS) -- Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are nurses who have been specially trained specifically work with sexual assault survivors in their time of need.
Libertyville nurse Chenel Vanden Berk, the manager for the Advocate Healthcare Northern Illinois Regional Sexual Assault Program, is part of that select group.
"It contains not just nursing but also evidence collection, there's expert testimony, so you're involved in court piece as well, forensics, opportunities to work with advocates," she said.
Vanden Berk works at Advocate Condell Medical Center, and wants to break the stigma of coming forward for help after a traumatizing physical violation.
"I'm just in awe of the courage and bravery it takes for them to walk through that door not knowing what kind of care there going to have or who they're going to see but in the worst day of their lives saying, 'I need help and I trust that someone here is going to provide that help,'" Vanden Berk said.
After working as a legal aid family law attorney, Vanden Berk became a SANE. She said she sees the discernible difference she makes in her patients' lives, including on the witness stand.
"To be able to spend just a few moments on the stand and know that my work may have played a part in helping someone heal and get justice, that's actually very gratifying," she said.
Vanden Berk said she averages about two patients a week. The youngest she's examined was just 18 months old; the oldest was 80 years old. She said she knows the bravery and courage it takes to come forward.
"A sexual assault isn't that person. That is something that happened and it does not take away their dignity and their individuality," she said.
Vanden Berk said any exam she performs is completely confidential and entirely with consent affirmed at every step.