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The importance of sexual assault nurse examiners and the difficulty of locating them in North Carolina
Sexual assault nurse examiners receive specialized training and certification to provide emergency medical attention and gather forensic evidence following sexual assaults. Many hospitals in North Carolina have SANE nurses, but it’s not required, and no one is keeping track. A Carolina Public Press investigation found that many hospitals, especially outside major cities, do not have SANE nurses or are forced to share them with other facilities across a wide area. Many hospitals, including several major chains, refused to disclose details to the public. It’s a frustrating problem for survivors seeking emergency care and wondering where to turn. Lack of access to SANE nurses can undermine the timely and expert gathering of evidence to build a case for prosecution. Other models for connecting survivors with these medical professionals exist and are being tried in some North Carolina counties. Some states have also taken a more proactive approach that may lead to better outcomes, both for survivors’ health and the criminal justice system.
Follow our investigation
Part 1 of 2
Rape victims need help from specialized nurses, but no one in NC keeps track of them
A survey of hospitals across NC found uneven results for staffing sexual assault nurse examiners. Some described rape victims visiting multiple hospitals until finding one with the proper personnel.
Part 2 of 2
No state oversight of where sexual assault nurse examiners work in NC, but models for change exist
Some other states have laws in place or are adopting new legislation to ensure access to SANE nurses. Some community-based solutions in NC also offer promise.
Resources on SANE nurses in North Carolina
Carolina Public Press Special Event
Inside the Investigation: A conversation with lead reporter Kate Martin
A virtual event allows Martin to pull back the curtain on her investigative reporting process.
Previous reporting on sexual assaults and SANE nurses in North Carolina
Through the eyes of a sexual assault nurse examiner
Sexual assault nurse examiners provide critical services to sexual assault victims – and to law enforcement and prosecutors who rely on evidence.
Sexual assault cases hinge on evidence gathered by police, nurses
Even when evidence exists in a sexual assault case in North Carolina, the right circumstances make a difference. And so do jurors.
Do-it-yourself rape evidence kit will hurt effort to prosecute rapists, AG warns
Company has created a do-it-yourself kit to collect rape evidence. NC and Michigan attorneys general warn it’s not a valid option.
Analysis: NC convicts fewer than 1 in 4 sexual assault defendants
Fewer than one in four defendants charged with sexual assault in North Carolina can expect to be convicted of that charge or a related reduced charge, and some parts of the state generate few if any sexual assault convictions, according to Carolina Public Press’ analysis of state court data.
Sexual assault suspects face little prospect of conviction in some counties
In 38 counties across North Carolina, zero defendants charged with sexual assault were convicted of that charge or a reduced charge in 4 1/2 years.
Questions of consent can make NC sexual assault cases tough to prosecute
A 40-year-old legal precedent makes North Carolina the only state in the country where withdrawing consent doesn’t make continued sex a crime.
Governor signs NC sexual assault reforms into law
Signature of Gov. Roy Cooper makes NC sexual assault legislation law, closes loopholes and offers protection for child victims.
Sexual assault cases in NC plagued by long lags after arrests made
Data shows NC sexual assault cases taking years to resolve, whether due to strategic delays by attorneys, evidence testing issues or court procedures.
North Carolina working to erase biggest rape kit backlog in nation
As of last year, North Carolina had the most untested rape kits in the entire nation, stockpiled at 15,130 kits. A proposed state law aims to change that.
Newsmakers: NC laws one challenge to convicting sexual assault crimes
Watch a Carolina Public Press Newsmakers forum on issues surrounding convicting sexual assault crimes in North Carolina. On Monday, April 29, legislation proposed by a lawmaker, and panelist at this forum, to close several loopholes in the state’s sexual assault laws received unanimous approval from legislators in the state House.
HCA responds to AG about nurses certified for sexual assault examinations
In the wake of concerns from a rural nonprofit and questions from the attorney general, HCA stands its ground on sexual assault nurse examiners.
Response to sexual assault adjusts due to pandemic
Social distancing rules and hospital conditions force changes in protocols and procedures in responding to NC sexual assault cases during pandemic.
Specialized training on sexual assaults changes NC prosecutors’ approach
Training gives prosecutors a better understanding of how sexual assault trauma affects memory, insights they are learning to communicate with jurors.
Sold and raped repeatedly: The human trafficking ordeal
Traffickers tell potential victims they care, but are only interested in money. Survey of controversial website shows many listings for Western North Carolina.