Iowa Wesleyan continues raising awareness for child abuse with forensics seminar

By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News


Forensic science, nursing and law enforcement may not seem like fields that work hand in hand, but for forensic nurse Stacy Swon and forensic interviewer Amy Kuboushek, they do.

To continue the conversation around child abuse awareness month, Iowa Wesleyan hosted a seminar on forensic nursing and criminal justice investigation of children in need of assistance on Monday, April 23. The event was sponsored by the IW nursing and criminal justice departments. Swon, a pediatric sexual assault nurse, spoke alongside Amy Kuboushek, a forensic interviewer, about what it?s really like to be involved as a health care professional in a child abuse case.

Swon, an IW grad, has been a nurse for over 20 years and has worked in labor and delivery, postpartum, normal nursery, intensive care nursery and pediatrics. For the past three years, she has been practicing as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) specializing in pediatrics, for the Mississippi Valley Child Protection Center, in Muscatine. During that time, she has performed over 200 pediatric sexual assault exams and logged over 200 hours of training.

To be a SANE nurse, one must complete their nursing degree, preferably have two years experience as a nurse and complete around 80 hours of didactics and clinicals.

Swon explained that a SANE works in multiple work environments such as correctional facilities, natural disaster situations and even death investigations. ?Our skill set is unique to us and what we can do and what we can bring to the table,? she said.

Forensic nursing can also cross over into the legal system in cases of abuse and assault. Swon says the most important thing to remember in those cases is do the job assigned, and not over step bounds. ?Sometimes law enforcement and families can put a lot of pressure on you,? she said. ?A lot of times people get frustrated with me because I can?t give them a better answer than what they had when they came to see me.?

Multiple people pressing for answers is detrimental to the case, she says, because the story can be changed and dismissed in court. ?My job is to figure out what I can tie back to a health care examination,? she said.

?Part of my job is to get that collaborating evidence,? said Kuboushek, a forensic interviewer with the Mississippi Valley Child Protection Center.

Kuboushek is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, where she received her bachelors in social work, and St. Ambrose University where she received her masters. She has performed over 300 interviews and logged over 250 hours of training specific to her work.

She explained that sometimes the victim will tell her about an event unrelated to the current situation. She can then take that information to a SANE who can check for medical verification. This can help prove previous abuse, while staying within her work bounds.

If placed in a situation with a child who is reporting abuse, Kuboushek says not to ask questions but instead to listen and acknowledge the child?s story. ?It?s problematic in that situation to ask a lot of questions because it can be seen as leading,? she explained.

Lilly Smith is a junior criminal justice student at IW and was surprised to learn that asking questions was not recommended. ?I thought maybe you would want to know all those details for the police,? she explained. ? (Today) I learned about those specific jobs and what they entail.?

Alyx Brake, who is also a junior criminal justice major, was surprised at what she did not know, but was glad to learn tools she could use in the field. ?I actually didn?t know about the job opportunities they have,? she said. ?(But) I learned more about what to do when you come along and how to respond to it.?