U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has raised concerns about the availability of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) at hospitals that serve her constituents in Washington state. Advocates say a lack of resources has made this a problem nationwide.
Murray sent a strongly worded letter to the Washington State Hospital Association after a local TV news station questioned whether hospitals have enough nurses who are trained to collect evidence of sexual assault through a medical forensic examination, commonly referred to as a rape kit. It's not uncommon for a larger hospital to have a SANE available 24/7, but experts say the nation still doesn't have enough SANEs to adequately serve victims.
In her letter, Murray told the association that she has grown “increasingly concerned” about the obstacles sexual assault survivors can face in obtaining a forensic exam. There are no data at the state level noting which hospitals have trained nurses and forensic kits available, and there's a lack of uniformity in the information given to victims, she noted.
Murray asked the association to create an action plan for ensuring hospitals have examinations on-site, train more providers to be SANEs and identify what needs to be done in sexual-assault cases, even if a hospital does not employ an examiner.