After someone has experienced sexual assault, it’s extremely important that they seek medical
attention as soon as possible. In addition to addressing any immediate injuries, prompt
treatment is essential to reducing the survivor’s risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and
unwanted pregnancy, as well as collecting forensic evidence for the purpose of filing a police
report and identifying the perpetrator.
However, for many sexual assault survivors, seeking treatment and reporting their assault can
be a harrowing experience, and may even lead to additional trauma. For that reason, it’s
essential that hospitals and healthcare providers have resources and protocol in place to ensure
that assault survivors receive timely, compassionate, and trauma-informed care.
Assault Survivors Face Unique Barriers to Treatment
For people who have experienced sexual assault, seeking medical attention is complicated, to
say the least. Shame, fear of judgment, financial concerns, and lack of faith in the healthcare
and/or judicial system may all prevent victims from going to the hospital in the first place.
Sexual assault examinations, while necessary, are very thorough and may feel invasive to
someone who has already experienced a violation of their bodily autonomy. On top of that,
survivors are typically instructed to keep on the same clothes they were wearing when the
assault happened and not to perform any acts of personal grooming (such as bathing, brushing
their teeth or hair, or anything else that might compromise forensic evidence). And finally,
healthcare professionals must ask patients detailed questions about the assault and their
previous sexual history in order to best assess their risk of complications and their needs
moving forward. Together, these factors can reinforce or compound the psychological trauma
that the survivor has experienced.
Women of Arab heritage face even greater obstacles to receiving treatment and healing from
assault, due to deeply embedded cultural stigmas around sex and rape. In Arab cultures, sexual
assault survivors are seen as disgraced and dishonored. Women whose chastity has been
compromised are seen as unmarriageable, and in the wake of sexual assault, the focus is often
on protecting the reputation of the victim and her family, rather than the healing and safety of
Moreover, the criminal justice systems in many Arab countries offer little to no protection or
redress for victims. In some Arab countries, for example, rapists are not prosecuted if they
marry their victims, and rape within the context of marriage is not considered a criminal offense.
Dr. Sobhiyi Mrowat Takes Over Nazareth Hospital’s Acute Room
The Acute Room at Nazareth Hospital, which opened in August of 2022, is designed to provide
trauma-informed, culturally sensitive care for victims of sexual assault from the Arab community
in Nazareth. Although it is an extension of the hospital’s trauma unit, the Acute Room is located
discreetly away from the hospital’s main building, which helps patients protect their privacy and
Recently, Dr. Sobhiyi Mrowat was named medical director of the Acute Room. Dr. Mrowat is a
gynecologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, and she’s also intimately familiar with the
cultural, psychological, and medical factors affecting the patients who come to the Acute Room.
Under Dr. Mrowat’s direction, the Acute Room’s specially trained staff and healthcare
professionals—which include doctors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists—address
patients’ needs with the compassion and urgency befitting their situation. Patients are treated
for any injuries, given a full physical examination, and are provided with contraceptive care and
preventive treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Patients also undergo a psychological
evaluation, and are provided with information and resources pertaining to mental health
treatment after their release. If patients choose to file a police report, the hospital also supports
that process by connecting them with the appropriate authorities.
For many survivors of sexual assault, the road to recovery can be long and difficult. For those in
Nazareth, however, Dr. Mrowat and her team are committed to making it as smooth as possible.
The Nazareth Project is the primary US partner of the Nazareth Trust, an organization dedicated
to serving the population of the Middle East and the wider world through healthcare, education,
proclamation, and service. Our work and mission are rooted in the teachings of Jesus of
Nazareth, though we are committed to serving all peoples, regardless of faith, political affiliation,
or tradition. The offerings of the Trust include the Nazareth Hospital and the Nazareth Academic
School of Nursing, as well as Nazareth Village and the SERVE Nazareth program, both of which
allow patients, students, volunteers, pilgrims, and tourists to deepen their relationship with God
and one another. Contact us today for more information on our programs, or consider donating to support our work!