Wednesday, March 24, 2010
In November, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program faced a $1 million budget cut and was almost dismantled. The day was saved at the last minute, but the program is once again in danger - and we need your help.
What is SANE?
The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program trains and funds nurses who are contacted whenever a survivor reaches a designated hospital; it funds advocates who are on call 24 hours a day to accompany survivors to the hospital and it funds Children’s Advocacy Centers that play a special role for children who are survivors of sexual abuse. These programs play a crucial role, not only in providing compassionate services to survivors, but also in ensuring that evidence is collected and handled properly so that rapists are identified, prosecuted and convicted. It’s been around for twelve years, and serves 17 rape crisis centers and 27 hospitals across the state.
What makes a SANE different from another nurse or doctor? SANEs are specifically trained to collect evidence in a way that’s respectful to the survivor. The the wake of a rape or sexual assault, it’s important to have a medical professional who enderstands this trauma and can work with the survivor.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are specially trained and certified professionals skilled in performing quality forensic medical-legal exams. Should a case go to trial, the SANEs are then available to testify
SANEs are available by beeper and respond within 40-60 minutes to the designated SANE site ready to care for the victim of sexual assault
SANEs will document the account of the assault, perform necessary medical exams, testing and treatment, then collect crucial, time sensitive evidence using the Massachusetts Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit distributed by the Executive Office of Public Safety
SANEs provide medical care to survivors without interruption, therefore maintaining the chain of evidence from the exam.
That last one is incredibly important for a potential criminal case.
Why do we need SANE? Why can’t the regular ER staff do this?
Technically, they can. But SANEs have a familiarity with the evidence collection kit (rape kit) that most staff don’t. A SANE knows the kit and can concentrate on the care. The average intern or resident who gets pulled in may be trying to figure out the kit in the process of collecting the evidence, which can leave them focused on the kit and not the survivor, and can lead to missed steps. And remember the chain of evidence issue? If a resident or nurse is in and out of the room, as tends to happen, we don’t have that.
In addition, residents and interns often leave Massachusetts after graduate and are thus not readily available to testify.
That testifying part? That’s important. Since 1998, there has been a range of 95-100% successful prosecution rate in Massachusetts when a SANE has collected evidence and testified in court.
Again from Mass.Gov:
SANEs have testified and provided quality forensic evidence in 54 sexual assault trials of which, 51 have resulted in conviction. Evidence collection along with SANE testimony were important elements in achieving convictions in all of the cases.
In FY’02 through FY’04 evidence submitted to the Boston and State Police Crime Lab revealed that overall, SANEs are collecting better evidence than non-SANE providers
Massachusetts DAs anecdotally report alleged perpetrators are more likely to plead guilty before trial when the prosecution presents evidence collected by SANEs, saving enormous prosecution costs.
Ongoing developments in the science of evidence collection, e.g. DNA testing, require a higher level of expertise and consistency in the collection of evidence for sexual assault cases.
Why is SANE facing budget cuts?
Because everything is. It’s a tough economy. We absolutely acknowledge that. However, rates of violent crime - including rape - go up in times of economic crisis. Now more than ever, we can’t afford to lose SANE!
What can we do?
* Read this page to familiarize yourself with the program and see why it’s so good and so necessary.
* Call your representatives, senators, and Governor Patrick to tell them why SANE shouldn’t be cut.
* If you’re on Facebook, join the “Support SANE” group! (You can also become a Fan of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center!)
Our executive director will be using the Facebook group and mailing list to keep people apprised of what they can do to save the SANE program.
If the budget stands with this $1 million cut, we will lose SANE. That is unacceptable.
And you can help us keep it from happening. This is something you can do. It doesn’t require a week of training or a yearlong volunteer commitment, just a few phone calls and some spreading of information - hit Twitter with this. Make it your Facebook status message. Tell your friends why it’s important. Get them to call, too.
This is an issue that affects our whole community. Let’s step up.