Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program

The SANE Program is funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Health, and coordinated by the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre in partnership with Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and St. Francis Xavier University (StFX).  A SANE is a Registered Nurse who has advanced training and education in forensic examinations of sexual assault victims. Through this program, on-call SANE nurses provide immediate care and conduct forensic examinations of victims of sexual violence.

Our services are provided in a supportive, nonjudgmental, and confidential manner and can be obtained by calling 1-877-880-SANE(7263) or by contacting any of the following:

  • RCMP
  • Hospital ER
  • SANE Coordinator
  • Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre
  • StFX Health & Counseling Centre
  • Your doctor

The SANE program provides:

  • Emergency response, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • SANE program provides services to people of any gender
  • A sensitive and thorough sexual assault examination and forensic examination (evidence collection)
  • Expert testimony in a court of law
  • Choices about whether or not to involve the police
  • Information about community resources that can be accessed for ongoing support
  • Storage of forensic evidence for up to six months

What are my choices?

The time following a sexual assault can be confusing, traumatic and anxiety producing.

The SANE Program allows you to make decisions about the care you receive. It provides you with the following choices:

  1.  To receive information about sexual assault, looking after your health, community resources and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) preventative treatments.
  2. To have a medical and forensic exam completed and to report the assault to the RCMP. The forensic evidence will be passed over to the RCMP and they will talk with you regarding the assault.
  3. To have a medical and forensic exam completed and not report the assault to the RCMP. With this option, the forensic evidence will be frozen by the SANE Program for up to 6 months or until you decide how you want to proceed.

Why should I seek medical attention?

It is important that a victim/survivor of recent sexual assault/abuse consider seeking medical attention for several reasons:

  • To assess and take care of physical needs resulting from the assault/abuse
  • To test for pregnancy
  • To treat for infections and have follow-up testing for infections
  • To collect evidence

The victim/survivor can go to the following response sites:

  • Emergency room at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital
  • Emergency room at Aberdeen Hospital
  • Emergency room at Strait Richmond Hospital
  • Emergency room at Guysborough Memorial Hospital
  • Lindsay’s Health Centre for Women
  • StFX Health and Counselling Centre

If the victim/survivor tells the medical personnel that they have been sexually assaulted, a SANE nurse will be called. The SANE team will be able to attend to the victim/survivor’s medical needs, and if the victim/survivor chooses to have a forensic examination (evidence collection), the SANE will conduct the examination.

The medical examination involves:

  • Taking a medical history
  • Documenting details of the assault/abuse to help identify potential infections, injuries or treatment required.
  • Taking urine samples to test for pregnancy.
  • Follow up testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections will occur 2 weeks post assault; there may also be follow up testing at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months.
  • An internal exam may also be performed at this time.

What is a forensic examination?

A forensic examination collects evidence that can be used in court should you decide you want to report your assault to the police. If may involve:

  • Collecting clothing for evidence
  • A head to toe examination
  • Taking photographs of injuries if required
  • Taking swabs from different areas of the body for possible evidence

This examination should be conducted within 120 hours of the assault/abuse. It is preferable, but not mandatory, for the victim/survivor not to shower, bathe, douche, use the washroom, change clothes, eat/drink, or clean teeth, etc until after the exam is completed, as this may destroy evidence. Please note, the forensic examination will only be conducted if the victim/survivor has given consent. The victim/survivor can stop the forensic exam at any time.

This process takes at least two hours to complete. Only the SANE nurse(s) and other emergency department personnel need to be present during this exam. The victim/survivor may wish to have a support person as well (i.e. a friend or a sexual assault worker). The police do not need to be present.


Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to decide the path you want to take.

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