Module 5
Medical Forensic Sexual Assault Examinations: What Are They, and What Can They Tell the Courts?



Optimally, a medical forensic sexual assault examination is conducted by a specially trained health care provider. This may be a registered nurse or nurse practitioner, known as a SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner), who has completed specialized education and clinical preparation required for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner certification. The trained examiner may also be a physician or physician’s assistant, known as a SAFE (sexual assault forensic examiner).

Because most of these healthcare providers are nurses, this module uses the term SANE to denote all trained examiners.

Patient, Victim, or Client?

SANEs, as well as the National Protocol for Medical Forensic Sexual Assault Examinations (2d ed. 2013) that guides examinations (explained on next page), use the word patients to refer to those seeking care. Victim is generally the term used within the criminal justice system to refer to an individual who has reported that a crime has been perpetrated against them. Many victim advocates refer to the victims they assist as clients due to the advocate’s role as a service provider for a rape crisis center or a domestic violence agency.

In this module, the terms patient, victim, and client will be used interchangeably to refer to those seeking medical forensic sexual assault examinations, navigating the criminal justice system, and/or obtaining advocacy services. This is not intended to invalidate other terms used to refer to individuals who have been sexually assaulted, such as “survivor.”

“Rape Kit”

Rape Kit is a widely used colloquial phrase that references the medical forensic sexual assault examination and the evidence collected during the examination. This module uses the full title or the word “examination” to reflect the entire process and its findings.

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