Specialized care for victims of violence and abuse


Being at home also means that there are no safety nets or mandated reporters; no one else to help.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, even before the pandemic, an average of 20 people in the U.S. experience physical domestic violence every minute at the hands of an intimate partner. Sadly, in the Washington County community, the statistics point to a serious and concerning problem.


The team of forensic nurse examiners (FNEs) at Meritus Medical Center works with victims of violence of all ages; violence that includes sexual assault, intimate partner and non-intimate partner assault/abuse, child physical abuse and neglect, elder abuse and neglect and human trafficking, according to Jennifer McNew, forensic nurse manager.

“Our forensic nurse examiners see an average of 43 cases per month,” McNew said.

A forensic nurse examiner has at least 160 hours of additional training to be able to provide this specialized care. They work closely with a multi-disciplinary team that includes law enforcement, attorneys, victim advocates and protective services for both adults and children.


Through generous donations from the Meritus Healthcare Foundation, training and additional resources for the FNE program have been made possible. This includes funding for medical director oversight by a board-certified child abuse pediatrician. That pediatrician provides expert peer review on children who have received a forensic medical exam, not only at the hospital, but also at Safe Place, Washington County Child Advocacy Center.

“Child advocacy centers were created to meet the needs of the child, rather than the child meeting the needs of the agencies involved. Safe Place is a child-friendly center, where a child can receive services, including a forensic medical exam by a forensic nurse,” McNew said.

In May, Meritus Health will host the conference, developed by a national expert, entitled, “Non-Fatal Strangulation: The Last Warning Shot,” through funding from the foundation.

“Being strangled by an intimate partner, increases the likelihood of death by 750%,” McNew said.

The conference is designed to increase participant understanding of the signs and symptoms of strangulation, improve system response to non-fatal strangulation cases through a multi-disciplinary approach and ultimately decrease the number of fatalities through proper education on laws, best practices and resources.

Community Partnerships

Currently, Washington County is ranked fourth in human trafficking reports in Maryland. FNEs from Meritus Medical Center are part of the Washington County Anti-Human Trafficking Collaborative, an initiative that focuses on public awareness and prevention with the goal of increasing understanding of the issue in our community.

“Human trafficking has been in the spotlight for the past several years and more victims are being identified throughout the healthcare system. The forensic nurse program has been diligent in providing education to staff to help recognize, assess and treat human trafficking victims,” McNew said.

Patient Needs

By putting the safety and well-being of the patients at the forefront, the advanced training of the FNEs translates into direct care by providing the patients resources and addressing their immediate needs. This could mean their next meal, a safe place to sleep and also keeping their environment safe.

Meritus Medical Center is a safe place where the team of FNEs can provide an exam, collect evidence, identify and document injuries associated with violence, and provide support and resources to victims and their families.

“We let the patient remain in control of what they would like to happen, and never force anything they are not comfortable with. That can be the first step in the healing process for victims,” explain McNew.

Your Support

Find more information on the Meritus Health Forensic Nursing Program here. You can help make these efforts possible by giving to the Meritus Healthcare Foundation today.