Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

Avalon SANE 24-hour Response Line: 902 425 0122

Avalon SANE admin office (8:30am – 4:30pm, M-F): 902 422 6503

2012_SANE_Training_Listening_SANES-1024x705Some individuals 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 individual’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.

  • SANE is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • SANE serves people of all genders (including trans-identified people) and all ages who have experienced a sexual assault in the past seven days (168 hours).

Medical exams and/or forensic evidence collection through the SANE program will only be conducted with the individual’s consent. Evidence is not released to the police without consent. Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. Individuals have the right to be treated with dignity and respect during the hospital visit.

shellsHow to Access the SANE Program

  1. Go to the emergency room of one of the participating hospitals or health centres (IWK Health Centre, QEII Health Sciences Centre, Dartmouth General Hospital and Cobequid Community Health Centre). The staff will call a SANE.
  2. Call the Avalon SANE response line (902-425-0122), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  3. Call the Avalon SANE business line (902-422-6503) during Avalon Centre office hours.

On the SANE Response Line, SANEs provide clients with non-judgmental, confidential support as well as information about their options after an immediate sexual assault. Clients can also call the Response Line to arrange to meet a SANE at the hospital for medical care and/or the collection of forensic evidence. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program: Avalon Centre’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program responds to those who have experienced a Sexual Assault within the Past 7 Days. This program offers a 24-hour response line for people of all ages and genders who have been sexually assaulted within the last 7 days and would like medical attention and/or forensic evidence collection. SANE nurses will also respond to calls if individuals have questions/concerns and aren’t sure if they’d like to go through this process. The number for the response line is 902-425-0122 or individuals can proceed to the emergency departments of the IWK, Cobequid, QEII, or Dartmouth General Hospital. There are also SANE nurses in other locations of the province. More information can be found here.

The SANE Program Provides:

  • Response within an hour at the emergency departments of the IWK Health Centre, QEII Health Sciences Centre, Dartmouth General Hospital and the Cobequid Community Health Centre
  • Expert testimony in a court of law
  • Supportive follow-up for victims
  • Storage of forensic evidence for six months
  • Telephone response line for immediate sexual assault information and support

The SANE Program does not Provide:

  • Transportation
  • Medical services outside the hospital emergency departments
  • Medical treatment to anyone other than victims/survivors

Why Access the SANE Program

It is important to consider seeking medical attention after a sexual assault for several reasons:

  • To take care of physical needs resulting from the assault/abuse
  • To test for infections and pregnancy
  • To begin treatment if required
  • To collect evidence if desired
  • To reduce undue worry later on

What Happens at the Hospital?

After informing medical personnel about the sexual assault at the emergency room, or contacting the SANE Response Line, the individual 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 with consent. The individual can stop either of the examinations at any time.

Medical Examination

The medical examination, conducted by the SANE, involves:

  • Taking a medical history
  • Documenting details of the assault/abuse to help identify potential infections, injuries or treatment required
  • Taking blood and urine samples to test for pregnancy and/or infections (follow-up testing may need to occur in six, 12 and 24 weeks)
  • An internal exam (vaginal)
  • Provide information regarding follow-up testing and/or treatment
  • A general physical exam

Forensic Examination

A forensic examination may be conducted within the first few days following the assault. It is preferable, but not mandatory, for the individual 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:

  • Collecting clothing for evidence
  • A head to toe visual exam looking for bruises, cuts, scratches, bloodstains, seminal stains, etc.
  • Taking photographs of injuries

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 individual 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.

What Happens to the Forensic Samples Collected?

With the SANE Program, individuals make decisions about reporting the sexual assault to the police.There are three options:

  • If the individual decides to immediately report the assault to the police, the police will be notified. Forensic evidence will be handed over to them at that time.
  • If the individual decides not to file a report with police at this time, they may still want to have a forensic examination. Individuals have the option of having forensic evidence collected, frozen and stored for up to six months.
  • If the individual decides to report the sexual assault within the six month period, the SANE Coordinator will contact the police and provide the forensic evidence. The police will then proceed with the investigation.
Download SANE Handout (PDF)Download SANE Year End Report 2018-2019 (pdf)