Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner & Pediatric SANE Programs

  • Description
  • Funding History
  • Proposals
  • Expert Commentary

The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program provides medical care and expert forensic evidence collection for victims of all ages. The program connects victims to rape crisis center advocates or children’s advocacy centers to assure that they are provided with social and emotional supports. The evidence collected by SANEs can be critical in the prosecution of sexual offenders. The Massachusetts SANE program is the only statewide program for all ages in the country and the pediatric component has been a model for similar efforts in other states and countries to care for child sexual assault patients.

This line item supports the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program as well as services in rape crisis centers and children’s advocacy centers that are part of a comprehensive response to sexual assault patients of all ages. The SANE Program includes two components: an Adolescent/Adult component and a Pediatric component.

The Adolescent/Adult component serves patients age 12 and over at designated hospital emergency departments across the state. SANEs respond within one hour of being paged, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and perform exams using special forensic evidence collection kits, as well as providing other clinical care. Staff and/or volunteers from rape crisis centers work with SANEs to provide medical accompaniment and support to victims and link them to community-based services. SANEs also work with law enforcement officials to interpret forensic evidence, and they testify about the evidence at sexual assault trials.

The Pediatric SANE program serves children age 11 and under who are victims of sexual assault and abuse. Most services are provided at one of seven Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) in the state, and the Lawrence General Hospital provides 24-hour emergency services. (Children may be referred to a CAC from emergency departments and other settings.) Pediatric SANEs conduct developmentally appropriate physical exams and collect forensic evidence using kits specially designed to allow a non-invasive examination that is sensitive to the needs of children. CAC Pediatric SANEs also document abuse that has occurred outside the usual 72-hour timeframe for evidence collection, and they work with CAC personnel and community partners to provide crisis intervention and link children and their families with other services.

In addition to forensic work, SANEs provide education and training to medical providers, educators, and other groups, and they participate in trial preparation and testify in court, helping to increase the rate of guilty pleas and verdicts. Funding from this line item also supports CACs and rape crisis centers in their roles as part of the team serving victims.

SANE programs may help solve longstanding problems associated with sexual assault cases. The programs provide quality evidence in a timely way that can help shape the course of an investigation, the researchers concluded. "With the medical forensic evidence safely in the hand of SANEs, law enforcement put more investigational efforts into other aspects of the case. The training and ongoing consultation provided by SANEs often suggested investigational leads that law enforcement could pursue to further develop a case. As a result, the cases that are put forward to prosecutors reflect the collective efforts and expertise of law enforcement and SANEs, and not surprisingly, the cases are stronger. Consequently, prosecutors are more inclined to move forward with charging cases, and over time, the prosecution rates did increase," the researchers report.

Increasing Sexual Assault Prosecution Rates, National Institute of Justice Journal. no. 264. Nov 2009.