Abuse survivors are seen and heard at Providence intervention center

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Removing barriers to care | Access to community-based care

Sara* didn't expect to learn just how vulnerable survivors of domestic and sexual abuse can be. That was before her daughter was the victim of sexual assault as a teenager.

In her daughter’s time of need, the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse, known as PICAA, in Everett, Wash., was there with every service she needed.

“After I heard what happened, I called my Providence pediatrician, who told me to immediately call the 24-hour hotline at Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center, and the PICAA victim advocate advised me to go to the emergency department right away,” Sara remembers.

The Providence center is co-located with Dawson Place. A forensic nurse and sexual assault advocate from PICAA met Sara and her daughter in the emergency room to help them through the difficult steps of a forensic exam. In the months that followed, PICAA arranged for many follow-up services, including an interview by a child interview specialist, a follow-up exam, legal advocacy and vital counseling services. 

Everyone at the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse was so compassionate and unbiased,” Sara recalls. “We were completely seen and heard.”

"They have a plethora of services, and their therapy for me was phenomenal as it helped me navigate through some incredibly life-altering times with our daughter,” she adds.

Sara was so moved by her family’s experience at PICAA that she now helps support the center’s work. “I couldn’t imagine our community without PICAA; I’m not sure how survivors of sexual assault would find justice or healing without it,” she says.

Sara’s story is common among those who have relied on services from the Providence center, which is the primary facility in Snohomish County for medical and forensic exams for those who have experienced violence, as well as therapy and advocacy services for those survivors. PICAA’s sexual assault nurses also travel to other hospitals and facilities throughout Snohomish County, which often doesn’t have trained clinicians available 24/7 to provide exams.

The Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse is the primary facility in Snohomish County providing medical and forensic exams for violence survivors as well as therapy and advocacy services.

“Our primary goal is to make sure the patient and family are taken care of following their experience,” says Melissa Mertz, manager for PICAA.

“We see a broad range of emotions among our patients at PICAA,” says Paula Newman Skomski, FNP, who cares for patients at the center. “Most often, they come in traumatized and upset, but they leave feeling supported and cared for. When we finish our exams, we get big hugs from our patients. The kids we see, they don’t want to leave.”

“To have these services available locally, there aren’t words to describe how valuable that is.”

Paula Newman Skomski, FNP

Providence places a priority on serving this vulnerable population in Snohomish County. In addition to staffing and supporting PICAA with community benefit funding, Providence also supports Peoria Home, which Paula founded and leads, to offer housing and services to women seeking to leave sex trafficking.

“In 2006, law enforcement told us at Providence there was a need for these services for women 18 and older,” Paula explains. “I led a task force to investigate this issue, and we got Peoria Home opened in 2018. We provide two years of residential living to women who want to leave the sex trade. We have therapy services and we teach them life skills and job skills.”

Providence supports the intervention center and its community partner Peoria House with community benefit.

PICAA and Peoria Home work together to help these survivors. Often a survivor will seek care at PICAA and be referred to Peoria Home. Other survivors at Peoria Home will seek care at PICAA while they get established with a primary care provider.

“To have these services available locally, there aren’t words to describe how valuable that is,” Paula reflects. “And it aligns so closely with our Providence values of justice, dignity and compassion.”

*The individual’s name has been changed for privacy.

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