PROUD: Nurse Anna Ballantyne is a member of the Sunshine Coast Sexual Assault Response Network and says treating the
PROUD: Nurse Anna Ballantyne is a member of the Sunshine Coast Sexual Assault Response Network and says treating the "whole person” for mental and physical injury is critically important. Patrick Woods

'Rape kit' availability a major help in recovery from trauma

AS A nurse specialising in emergency care Anna Ballantyne often saw people "on the worst day of their life".

Rape victims are among those who come to Sunshine Coast University Hospital for help, and having had 20 years in healthcare Mrs Ballantyne knows better than most the complexity of providing truly helpful assistance.

"It's the person at the centre of this, we want them to be able to make a good decision with support," she said.

"That psycho-social support makes a big difference in the long term."

People who have been sexually assaulted sometimes believe it's "abnormal to be traumatised by this", she said.

"And actually this is a response that would be expected to a traumatic situation, so we can walk people through that."

Mrs Ballantyne is a member of a team of professionals from police to counsellors and medicos who are working to improve responses for people who experience sexual assault.

She is excited about upcoming Queensland Health reforms.

"Rape kits" that allow crucial DNA evidence to be collected are presently not offered to victims unless they have decided to make a police complaint.

But Health Minister Steven Miles announced earlier this year the policy would be reversed.

Emergency departments at Sunshine Coast University, Nambour General, Maleny and Gympie hospitals are some of the only places rape and sexual assault victims can go for medical help 24-hours a day.

"They're a vulnerable cohort (of patients) and we want to give them the best possible care like with all the people who come through our doors," Mrs Ballantyne said.

She said the reform was one of the most significant in her time in nursing.

"We're working towards having more trained clinicians who can provide the sexual health examinations," she said.

Laurel Place director of specialist sexual assault counselling service Karren Aspinall said provision of the just-in-case rape kits was "an absolutely essential service for people who experience sexual violence".

"I am confident that things will change," she said.

"This is the first time that I've seen so much activity and willingness from people involved in responding to sexual violence to improve things."