FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — New help is available to survivors of sexual assault in the Pee Dee.

McLeod Health launched its forensic nurse examiner program last month and has already seen 13 cases. It’s the first dedicated program of its kind in the Pee Dee region, which until recently was the only area in South Carolina without one.

“An assault victim is traumatized not only physically, but emotionally, mentally,” the program’s coordinator, Shannon Scott, said. “These assaults are about power and control. So all that control is taken away from the patient.”

When it comes to helping survivors of sexual assault, Scott said giving power back to the patient is key.

“They get to choose everything that is done during this time and in their care,” Scott said. “And then once we’re done with that, we educate them with some discharge instructions. We will set up referrals with advocacy centers.”

The program has been years in the making and is now up and running out of McLeod Regional Medical Center in downtown Florence. The forensic nurses in the program get special training that prepares them to handle patients following an assault.

“There’s a whole slew of different things that we’re trained in, in addition to what we were trained in as nurses,” Scott said. “We’re trained in injury identification in forensic photography, in evidence collection, swabbing, court testimony.”

The hospital said until recently, survivors of sexual assault in the Pee Dee had to travel to Charleston or Columbia for a program like this one. There have been 84 pediatric cases in the region had to be transferred in the past two years.

“That’s why it’s so important this program has come to Florence and we’re able to serve the community and to serve all three victim populations,” Scott said. “Adult, adolescents, pediatrics, each one is treated differently.”

Scott said if the need is big enough, the hospital may put another full team at one of its Horry County facilities.