Joyce, Ross Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Shortage of SANE-certified Nurses, Improve Care for Survivors of Sexual Violence

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) introduced the Supporting Access to Nurse Exams (SANE) Act to address the nation-wide shortage of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) and improve care for survivors of sexual violence. The bipartisan bill is endorsed by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the American Nurses Association (ANA), the International Association of Forensic Nurses, and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

SANEs are registered nurses who have completed additional education and training to provide comprehensive medical and emotional care, as well as legal support, to survivors of sexual assault. SANEs are specifically trained to not only properly collect DNA samples, but to also take notes on testimony that can later be invaluable in use during a criminal case. A 2016 study conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) not only found that there was a critical shortage of SANE-certified nurses, but that victims of sexual violence who were seen by a SANE following an alleged assault were significantly more likely to see their perpetrator be successfully prosecuted.

“The nation-wide shortage of certified sexual assault nurse examiners is nothing short of a crisis,” said Congressman Joyce, Co-Chair of the Congressional Nursing Caucus. “As a former prosecutor, I know how traumatic it can be for survivors of sexual violence to report their assault to medical professionals and law enforcement. It is unacceptable for survivors to face delay or difficulty in receiving an exam from a nurse who is trained to detect, treat, and document injuries caused by an assault. That’s why I am proud to introduce the SANE Act with Representative Ross. We urge Congress to act swiftly on our bipartisan legislation so that we can increase access to SANE-certified nurses in communities across the country and better care for survivors of sexual violence.”

“We must ensure that survivors of sexual assault feel safe and supported, regardless of where they choose to receive medical care,” said Congresswoman Ross. “Sexual assault nurse examiners play an essential role in providing survivors with trauma-informed care that empowers survivors to seek justice. Unfortunately, many health care facilities across the country do not have the resources or staff necessary to address the needs of survivors and do this vital work. I’m honored to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in introducing the Increasing Access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Act to enhance access to timely and quality care for survivors of sexual assault.”

“There is a critical shortage of sexual assault nurses across the country,” said Camille Cooper, Vice President of Public Policy for RAINN. “Nurses are working up to 150 hours a week in some rural areas, and survivors are waiting as long as 12 hours to receive care. We are incredibly grateful for Representatives Dave Joyce and Deborah Ross’ commitment to expanding access to critical, trauma-informed care for sexual assault survivors.”

“Being a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) is an extraordinarily difficult job,” said ANA President Ernest Grant, PHD, RN, FAAN. “They face emotionally taxing situations while treating and examining people who have just experienced potentially the most traumatic experience of their lives. The Government Accountability Office found that we have a critical shortage of SANEs due to the limited availability of training, weak stakeholder support to pay for training, and low retention rates caused by the acute emotional difficulties that come with being a SANE. We must overcome these challenges to ensure there are enough nurses to perform this critically important work. I want to applaud Representatives Dave Joyce and Deborah Ross for introducing legislation that would enable more nurses to receive their SANE certification so they can help more patients in their communities.”

Specifically, the bipartisan legislation would amend the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act of 2004 to ensure the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Grant Program is dedicated to the training, procurement, and retention of SANE-certified nurses. Once amended, the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam grants could be used in the following ways: 

  • to establish qualified regional SANE training programs;
  • to provide full and part time salaries for SANEs, including pediatric SANEs; and
  • to increase access to SANEs by otherwise providing training, education, or technical assistance relating to the collection, preservation, analysis, and use of DNA samples and DNA evidence collected by SANEs.

Additionally, the legislation would require the Attorney General to prioritize grants requested by qualified entities that would increase the local and regional availability of full and part time SANEs in rural and tribal areas, and in areas where there is a health professional shortage or an underserved population.

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