Graduate student testifies at Ohio House

Takiyah Smith at the Ohio Statehouse

On Oct. 21, graduate nursing student Takiyah Smith (NUR ’19), a registered nurse and sexual assault nurse examiner, testified as a proponent of Ohio House Bill 3 (HB 3) which seeks to make strangulation a felony in Ohio.

“A sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) is a registered nurse that is an expert in forensics. We receive extra training and education to provide compressive physical exams post assault with trauma informed care,” Smith said.

SANEs collect DNA evidence, perform forensic photography and complete sexual assault evident collection kits, and can be called to testify in court if the patient’s case goes to trial.

This was Smith’s first time testifying for legislation before a congressional committee.

“I felt like all eyes were on me, so I was pretty nervous at first. Then, I took a deep breath and just talked like I was talking to a patient about how to try to get out of a domestic violence relationship,” she said of the experience.

HB 3 passed the Ohio Criminal Justice Committee unanimously on Oct. 21 and was introduced to the Ohio General House Floor. It was passed by the Ohio House on Oct. 27. Smith said she wanted to testify to raise awareness for her patients. She is now working on raising awareness for Ohio Senate Bill 90, the senate equivalent of HB 3.

According to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report published by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11.6 million people in the U.S. have been strangled by an intimate partner. Forty-eight states, excepting Ohio and South Carolina, recognize strangulation as a felony offense.

No one is exempt from domestic violence, it does not matter your age, ethnicity, occupation, or education. Strangulation is more than choking, it is restricting blood and airflow to the brain. It can result in death, which we saw for Aisha Fraser, who the bill was named after,” Smith said.

HB 3 is also known as Aisha’s Law, named for Aisha Fraser, a sixth-grade teacher in Shaker Heights who was murdered by her ex-husband in November 2018.

Currently enrolled in the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing’s Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, Smith works as a SANE-certified RN and psychiatric nurse at Cleveland- and Akron-based hospitals. Smith is currently researching how vicarious trauma impacts SANEs in Ohio.

“I am learning how they cope with listening to the tragedies of assault on a daily basis and how it impacts them outside of work.”

Smith said it is important for nurses to get involved in the policy- and law-making process.

“According to Gallup polls, nursing has been the most trusted profession among American adults for 19 years straight. We already advocate for the patient in our interdisciplinary teams in the hospital,” she said. “Nurses underestimate the power we have raising awareness to unjust laws that impact patients. I think it is important to use our voices outside our occupation.”

Graduate student testifies at Ohio House