Forensic Issues: Collecting a Rape Kit (1/2)

ER nurses need to be familiar with the collection of a rape kit or Sexual Assault Examination (SAE) kit. This is good information for a novel that involves a rape victim or a character working as an ER nurse. I’m going to cover this in two parts, the first being some generalizations to consider and then I’ll move into specifics for the second post.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are nurses who have received specialized training in the collection of an SAE kit. It is not a simple one day class but multiple classes and clinical hours before the certification can be earned. It is not required that a SANE nurse be the one to collect the SAE kit. SANE nurses are not available at every hospital though you are likely to find them in major metropolitan areas.

The ED staff and police work in conjunction for the victim.

There is not a “national” standardized SAE kit. Each police jurisdiction may have their own of what they want collected.

The location of the crime is important as this will dictate what police agency handles the crime and evidence. The location of the hospital doesn’t play into this. If the crime occurred four hours away– that police jurisdiction will have to send an officer to our location.

The victim needs to give consent for collection of evidence and pictures. The victim can refuse and though we will encourage them to think about this differently, they do have the ultimate say. It is preferred that kits are collected within the first 24 hours though can be done up to 72 hours. After that time, one may still be collected but those involved may be concerned about how much evidence could be recovered and whether or not it will benefit the victim to be put through the exam.

Crime photographs are mostly managed through the police department CSI folks. Though, again, this may change in smaller, more rural locations. If you are writing specifically about a known town and a “real” hospital, it will behoove you to talk to someone there to get the details right.

If available through the police department, a victim’s assistant will come to the hospital to help the victim to understand the process. The nurse may have to advocate on behalf of the patient and ask the police if one is available. Often, these are a team of volunteers that support the police, especially during the night and weekend hours. They also receive specialized training sponsored by the police department. Smaller departments may not have one available. In that instance, an option would be to have the bedside nurse ask a chaplain to come and support the patient.

Next post we’ll talk about specifics of the kit.

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