"Where Are the Rape-Kit Nurses?"

  1. An opinion piece in the NY Times considers how to ease the problem of "rape kits" going unprocessed for years by increasing the number of SANEs (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners).

    Las Vegas — If you are an adult victim of sexual assault in Las Vegas, there is only one hospital where you can go to have a rape kit completed. Only two nurses in that hospital have specialized training to do the exam.

    In a metropolitan area of two million people, in a state with consistently high rates of domestic violence, the limited number of resources for sexual assault survivors seeking to prosecute, although troubling, is not unique.

    There are shortages of sexual assault nurse examiners throughout the United States, but such low numbers are more common in rural areas, where patients seeking rape kits may be redirected to hospitals hours away.

    These examinations can take a long time, up to six hours, and are most effective when completed shortly after the assault. Before receiving an exam, victims are encouraged not to change their clothes. Not to shower. Not to use the restroom. So if a patient’s nearest medical facility does not have the staff or resources available to complete the highly personal exam, or to provide sensitive, timely care, that victim may, as a result, choose to forgo reporting their assailant.

    The national issue of untested rape kits has gained attention in recent years because of initiatives like End the Backlog that have revealed the staggering numbers of untested kits sitting in law enforcement storage rooms. According to End the Backlog, there are approximately 8,000 that remain untested in Nevada.

    But before those rape kits can even accumulate in police departments, they have to be administered and sealed, typically by nurses. Certified nurses receive training on how to properly collect and preserve forensic evidence. They are prepared to testify in court. Research shows that sexual assault nurse examiners finish examinations in shorter time periods than untrained staff. They offer more emotionally sensitive care.

    Few nurses receive the training, though, and not all hospitals staff them. For some hospitals, the number of patients that seek sexual assault exams are so rare, just a few cases a month, that the cost of training nurses, or paying them to be on-call, is not financially feasible.
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  3. by   hppygr8ful
    I believe the nurses who do this in California are Forensic nurses and they only collect the specimen - they don't process it.

  4. by   NRSKarenRN
    A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) is a qualification for forensic nurses who have received special training to conduct sexual assault evidentiary exams for rape victims. Not all, but many SANE programs are coordinated by rape crisis centers rather than hospitals.

    CAREER INFO: Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners

    Police Laboratory Analysts process the kits
    How are rape kits processed?

    Oregon State Police analysts are working to resolve the growing backlog of rape kits, which has quadrupled since the state shipped kits to a private Utah laboratory in 2016.

    It takes between 8 and 16 hours to analyze a sexual assault forensic evidence kit, or SAFE kit, and each kit passes through the hands of forensic scientists who specialize in biology and DNA analysis.

    The lengthy testing period paired with a limited number of scientists who juggle other casework may have contributed to the growing backlog.

    At the Oregon State Police Forensics Services Division at the Portland Metropolitan Forensic Laboratory in Clackamas, each SAFE kit is passed through several analysts, including biologists who analyze hairs and fibers, and scientists who analyze human DNA like saliva, semen and any other swabs taken from a victim.
  5. by   brandy1017
    I think the backlog is not because of a lack of nurses, rather city and state govts not being willing to spend the money required to process the evidence. There is a complete breakdown of social service funding in city, state and federal govts. An unwillingness to spend the money necessary to maintain everything from public infrastructure such as bridges and roads to public education, child protection etc all to give tax cuts to the rich. The only thing govts are willing to spend money on are police, prisons and the military to fund wars. Ironic that there is money for prisons but not to process the rape kits, maybe it's just another example of mysogyny and sex discrimination since women are the majority of rape victims, they can't get any respect in this country. If it were a man's problem I think this wouldn't be the case! Just my opinion.
    Last edit by brandy1017 on Jun 30, '17
  6. by   jdub6
    The processing delays have nothing to do with nurses. In fact more "rape-kit nurses" ironically would worsen delays in processing.

    It is true that there is a shortage of trained forensic nurses to do this and it affects patients. In my area there are only a few SANEs and some hospitals don't use them due to expense if they have low numbers of pts needing trek (smaller hospitals esp.) But instead of diverting ambulances or transferring walk-in pts to facilities with trained staff available, they have their own staff basically wing it (their training is a half hour PowerPoint and if they are lucky observing 1 case-and those providing the training have been trained the same way.)

    It's really sad-these nurses can't answer pts questions, usually only female nurses are trained (meaning male victims who already face a tougher road with support and prosecution also get substandard hospital care) and if any of these kits were used in court it is likely they wouldn't help at all because the knowledge and technique would be torn apart.