Forensic Nurses and Helping the Sexually Assaulted

Victims of sexual assault carry a life long trauma.  Their first step to healing occurs with the hospital staff and forensic nurses.  Most of these nurses are referred to as SANE nurses or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.  They not only look to help the person physically but they are there also emotionally.  While they may not play a later role in counseling, their warm smile and understanding eyes can help forward the uncomfortable process of collecting evidence and treating injuries.   Many encounter not only those who were raped but also abused domestically, or even in other cases, those who are victims of human trafficking.

The position not only involves high level of training and empathy towards others but also a reserve within one’s own soul to face evil directly everyday.  Seeing the dark side of humanity everyday can be a difficult job for many and being able to remain strong for others and still keep an optimistic view on life can be challenging.  Hence, nurses who become SANE are not only a special breed but also heroes to countless of victims.

Forensic Nurses are the first line of defense for sexual assault victims. Please review AIHCP’s Forensic Nursing Certification


These front line nurses battle sexual assault and help others heal through their professional service, discreet silence, and soothing words.  The article, “How To Care For Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking Victims as a Nurse” by Chaunie Brusie looks closer at how SANE and Forensic Nurses help others who are victims of sexual abuse.  The article reviews a recent podcast with a Forensic Nurse who deals with sexually assaulted and human trafficking victims.   For those looking to begin a career in Forensic Nursing, the article states,

“Nurses who are interested in becoming a FNE/SANE can first turn to their state SANE program, many of which are government-funded and offer free training to all RNs. It is important to do your state program because each state has different laws and procedures about reporting and collection options.”

“How To Care For Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking Victims as a Nurse”. Chaunie Brusie. June 13th, 2023.

To read the full article, please click here

For those seeking additional training beyond SANE status, AIHCP also offers a Forensic Nursing Certification which can help prepare nurses for SANE and the duties of a sexual examiner nurse.


Sexual assault is a heinous crime that leaves survivors traumatized and vulnerable. In the aftermath of such an ordeal, it is crucial to have professionals who are trained to provide comprehensive care and support. This is where Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) play a vital role. As a SANE, I am passionate about empowering survivors and helping them navigate the difficult journey towards healing and justice.

The Role and Responsibilities of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

As a sexual assault nurse examiner, my primary responsibility is to provide compassionate and evidence-based care to survivors of sexual assault. This involves conducting thorough forensic examinations, collecting and preserving evidence, and documenting injuries. Additionally, I offer emotional support and guidance throughout the entire process. A SANE’s role extends beyond the immediate aftermath of the assault, as they may also provide expert testimony in court proceedings.

Importance of SANEs in Supporting and Empowering Survivors

Forensic Nurses help collect evidence but also can empower victims of sexual abuse


SANEs play a crucial role in supporting and empowering survivors of sexual assault. By providing comprehensive care, we help survivors regain a sense of control over their lives and facilitate their healing process. Our presence reassures survivors that they are not alone and that their experiences are valid. SANEs also act as advocates, ensuring that survivors’ rights are protected and that they have access to the resources they need. Through our work, we contribute to breaking the cycle of silence and stigma surrounding sexual assault.

Training and Qualifications Required to Become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

Becoming a sexual assault nurse examiner requires specialized training and qualifications. Registered nurses who wish to pursue this career path must complete a SANE certification program, which includes both didactic and clinical components. The program covers topics such as forensic evidence collection, trauma-informed care, and legal considerations. In addition to the certification, it is essential for SANEs to keep abreast of the latest research and advancements in the field through continuing education.

Forensic Nurses are key in collecting key evidence for law enforcement.


Once licensed, some nurses also prefer to earn various certifications in Forensic Nursing, such as from AIHCP.

The Process of a Sexual Assault Examination

A sexual assault examination is a meticulous and sensitive process that requires the utmost care and professionalism. When a survivor arrives at the healthcare facility, I begin by establishing rapport and ensuring their comfort and safety. The examination itself involves a head-to-toe assessment, including the collection of forensic evidence. This may include swabs from various body areas, photographs of injuries, and the documentation of any relevant physical findings. Throughout the examination, I provide clear explanations and reassurance, ensuring that the survivor is involved in the decision-making process.

Providing Emotional Support to Survivors as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

Emotional support and understanding beyond the physical exam is a key attribute for a Forensic Nurse.


Emotional support is a fundamental aspect of the care provided by a sexual assault nurse examiner. Survivors often experience a range of emotions, including fear, shame, and anger. As a SANE, I offer a non-judgmental environment where survivors can express their feelings and concerns. Active listening, empathy, and validation are integral to establishing trust and facilitating the healing process. Additionally, I provide information about available resources, such as counseling services and support groups, to help survivors on their journey towards recovery.

Collaboration with Law Enforcement and Legal Professionals

Collaboration between sexual assault nurse examiners, law enforcement, and legal professionals is essential for a comprehensive response to sexual assault cases. As a SANE, I work closely with these stakeholders to ensure that survivors’ rights are protected and that the evidence collected is admissible in court. This collaboration involves sharing information, attending case conferences, and providing expert testimony. By bridging the gap between healthcare and the legal system, we contribute to a more efficient and victim-centered approach to addressing sexual assault.

Challenges Faced by Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners

Being a sexual assault nurse examiner can be emotionally and physically demanding. The nature of the work exposes us to the trauma experienced by survivors, which can take a toll on our mental well-being. Additionally, the long hours and unpredictable schedules can lead to burnout. Furthermore, the criminal justice system’s reliance on forensic evidence places a heavy burden on SANEs, as we must ensure meticulous documentation and follow stringent protocols. Despite these challenges, the sense of purpose and the positive impact we make on survivors’ lives serve as a driving force in our commitment to this vital work.

The Impact of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners on Survivors and Communities

The work of sexual assault nurse examiners has a profound impact on both individual survivors and the larger community. By providing compassionate care and support, we empower survivors to reclaim their lives and rebuild their sense of self. Our role in the multidisciplinary response to sexual assault cases leads to higher conviction rates and a greater sense of justice for survivors. Moreover, the presence of SANEs contributes to the destigmatization of sexual assault, creating a safer and more supportive environment for survivors to come forward.

Conclusion: The Vital Role of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners in Empowering and Supporting Survivors

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) play a vital role in the journey towards healing and justice for survivors of sexual assault. Through their expertise, compassion, and advocacy, SANEs empower survivors and provide them with the comprehensive care they need. The impact of their work extends beyond individual survivors, contributing to the creation of safer communities and a more victim-centered approach to addressing sexual assault. As a SANE, I am honored to be part of this crucial work and to contribute to the empowerment and support of survivors.

Please also review AIHCP’s Forensic Nursing Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals


AIHCP also offers a Forensic Nursing Certification for nurses looking to help survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Forensic Nursing.


Additional Resources

“What Is a SANE Exam?”. Elizabeth Boskey, PhD. August 10th, 2022. VeryWellHealth. Access here

“How Nurses Can Recognize and Report Human Trafficking”. March 3rd, 2023. Nurse Journal.  Access here

“Caring for Victims of Violence: Forensic Nurses Are on the Front Line”. November 10th, 2017.  Cleveland Clinic.  Access here

“Domestic Violence: What Can Nurses Do?”. September 23rd, 2011. Crisis Prevention Institute.  Access here