Some victims/survivors of a sexual assault want to ensure their physical and medical well-being after an immediate sexual assault. The Avalon Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program provides this care while ensuring that the victim/survivor’s wants are respected.
A SANE is a registered nurse who has advanced training and education in forensic examinations of sexual assault victims. The Avalon SANE program provides medical examination and forensic evidence collection in the emergency departments of the IWK Health Centre, QEII Health Sciences Centre, Dartmouth General Hospital and Cobequid Community Health Centre.
Medical exams and/or forensic evidence collection through the SANE program will only be conducted with the victim/survivor’s consent. Evidence is not released to the police without the victim’s consent.
Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. Victims/survivors have the right to be treated with dignity and respect during the hospital visit.
Nurses on the SANE Response Line provide clients with non-judgmental, confidential support as well as information about their options after an immediate sexual assault. The line also connects the client with a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, who can meet the client at the hospital to provide medical care and/or the collection of forensic evidence.
It is important that a victim/survivor of recent sexual assault/abuse consider seeking medical attention for several reasons:
After informing medical personnel about the sexual assault at the emergency room, or contacting the SANE Response Line, the victim/survivor can meet with the SANE nurse at the hospital for the medical examination and/or forensic evidence collection.
Medical and/or forensic exams will only be conducted if the victim/survivor has given consent. The victim/survivor can stop either of the examinations at any time.
The medical examination, conducted by the SANE, involves:
A forensic examination may be conducted within the first few days following the assault.
It is preferable, but not mandatory, for the victim/survivor not to shower, bathe, douche, use the washroom, change clothes, eat/drink, or clean teeth, etc. until the exam is completed. Any of these things could destroy evidence.
A forensic examination includes the steps listed for a medical exam and may also include:
This process takes approximately two hours to complete. Only the SANE nurse(s) and other emergency department personnel need to be present during this exam. The victim/survivor may wish a support person to be present as well (i.e. a friend or a sexual assault worker). The police are not present during the exam.
With the SANE Program, victims/survivors make decisions about reporting the sexual assault to the police.The victim/survivor has three options: