On May 4, 2001, N.J. Assembly Bill 2083 was signed into law, providing for the establishment of a statewide Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. By doing so, New Jersey became one of the first states in the nation to develop a comprehensive statewide program to address the needs of sexual assault victims. The law required each county prosecutor to appoint or designate a certified sexual assault nurse examiner to serve as program coordinator for that county. The legislation also established a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) program, which provides a team approach to assisting assault victims. The SART members will include specially trained local police officers, nurse and/or physician examiners, and victim advocates. These programs are now being implemented in Essex County. Their overall goals are:
• To ensure timely and accurate collection of forensic evidence, thereby allowing for just determinations in sexual assault cases.
• To enhance the assessment and documentation of any medical trauma sustained by the sexual assault victim.
• To create compassionate and sensitive ways to address the physical, emotional and psychological needs of sexual assault victims.
• To coordinate the efforts of local police, hospitals, prosecutors, rape crisis centers and service providers to improve the quality of care and services offered to sexual assault victims in Essex County.
The SANE/SART Program utilize a victim-centered approach to sexual assault cases. The overall program, which dramatically improves community response to sexual assault, offers immediate and effective attention to rape victims by nurses and /or physicians who have been specially trained to provide a compassionate, culturally sensitive, and comprehensive forensic evaluation and medical treatment. A SANE (examiner) will perform a forensic examination following standardized procedures, so as to collect and preserve relevant evidence, once the victim’s immediate medical needs have been addressed. Additional support is provided by the SART members to address the legal, medical, psychological and emotional needs of the victim. Similar programs in the State have been proven to provide highly reliable evidence to maintain aggressive prosecution of sexual assault cases.
Currently, the Essex County SANE/SART program currently services six county hospital sites and forensic examiners are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to the medical/forensic needs of sexual assault survivors. The Essex County hospitals that have agreed to participate in the SART program are: Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (Newark), Mountainside Hospital (Montclair/Glen Ridge), Saint Barnabas Medical Center (Livingston) and University Hospital, Rutgers (Newark), Clara Maas (Belleville), and St. Michaels Medical Center (Newark). St. Michael’s Medical Center also provides the program with HIV/AIDS testing and counseling without cost to victims upon request.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office has received grants from the NJ State Office of Victim Witness Advocacy to help develop the program and to assume certain operating costs. The SANE/SART Coordinator is responsible for the operation and management of the countywide program. Anyone who would like more information should contact the program Coordinator at 973-753-1130.
The success of the program is evidenced by the frequency with which the program was used. In 2018, in Essex County there were a total of 305 SANE/SART activations at participating hospitals in response to the needs of sexual assault victims. Of that number 52 were pediatric cases. This compares with 245 activations with 41 pediatric cases in 2016.