A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) is a specially trained and certified nurse skilled in performing high quality forensic medical-legal exams. A SANE provides 24-hour on call services for male and female victims of sexual assault which has occurred within the previous 5 day period.

A SANE will

  • document the account of the assault
  • perform necessary medical exams, tests and treatments and
  • collect crucial, time sensitive evidence (such as fibers, hairs, saliva or semen) using the Massachusetts Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit.

Should a case then go to trial, the SANE would be available to testify. Since 1998 there has been a 90% successful prosecution rate in Massachusetts when a SANE has collected evidence and testified in court.

The SANE is available by beeper when paged by emergency room staff and responds within 60 minutes to the SANE site (the closest SANE emergency room is Morton Hospital located in Taunton, MA) ready to care for the sexual assault victim. In addition to the services of the SANE, the sexual assault victim receives the support of a trained advocate from a local rape crisis center (New Hope, located in Attleboro, MA). Together with the advocate, the SANE assists the victim to begin healing by providing medical and emotional support, as well as, legal information.

The SANE conducts a limited medical examination, not a routine physical exam. The actual forensic examination performed by the SANE may take up to 4 hours from beginning to end. Minors in the US do not need parental permission to obtain a rape exam.

The SANE examination specifically documents and collects forensic evidence. In most cases, this includes photographs, mouth, anal and vaginal swabs, hair combing, collection of clothes and underwear, fingernail scrapings and/or clippings, drawing blood and a pelvic exam. The SANE will also check and treat you for injuries, STDs and pregnancy. Preventative treatment of HIV, STDs, and pregnancy (morning after pill) is provided, as well as, testing for date rape drugs. While a SANE may treat minor injuries, such as washing or bandaging minor cuts or abrasion, further evaluation and care of any major physical trauma is referred to the emergency room physician.

The SANE provides emotional support and crisis intervention, and provides referrals for follow-up support, evaluation, counseling, and/or treatment.

While a SANE is not a legal advocate, she does provide information to help a victim to anticipate what may happen next, make choices about reporting and deciding whom to tell, and receive the necessary support needed after leaving the SANE facility.

(Adapted from The SANE Development and Operation Guide, Linda Ledroy, PhD, RN, FAAN, Sexual Assault Resource Service, Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Violence Prevention and Intervention Services within the MA Department of Public Health.)