NOVA legal advocates accompany victims during police and district attorney interviews, assist in the preparation of victim impact statements and provide on-going support throughout the entire criminal justice process. Legal advocacy services are also provided for Preliminary Hearings, Pre-Trial Hearings, Trials, Guilty Pleas, Sentencings and Juvenile Court Hearings.
NOVA staff and trained volunteers will accompany victims of crime to the Emergency Room in any of Bucks County’s seven hospitals. Emergency room advocates will provide accompaniment during SANE exams (see below for more info), emotional support, information and referral services. At your request, hospital personnel will contact NOVA upon your arrival to request accompaniment services.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)
Bucks County offers SANE programs at two locations: Doylestown Hospital and Aria Bucks Hospital in Langhorne. Recognizing the horror of sexual assault and the devastation it can cause victims and their significant others, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program ultimately strives to ensure that victims are not retraumatized by the evidentiary exam. SANE programs offer victims prompt, compassionate care and comprehensive forensic evidence collection. In addition to helping preserve the victim’s dignity and reducing psychological trauma, SANE programs are enhancing evidence collection for more effective investigations and better prosecutions.
A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is a registered nurse (R.N.) who has advanced education and clinical preparation in forensic examination of sexual assault victims. A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner can speed up the evidentiary examination process by reducing the time victims have to wait in a hospital’s emergency department and the time it takes to complete the examination. The quality of the examination is usually improved because an experienced SANE is adept at identifying physical trauma and psychological needs, ensuring that victims receive appropriate medical care, knowing what evidence to look for and how to document injuries and other forensic evidence, and providing necessary referrals. Evidence collected by SANE’s can help link the victim and suspect to the crime scene, indicate sexual activity, and establish lack of victim consent (e.g., bumps on the back of the head, abrasions on the back, and nongenital bruising). Establishing lack of consent is particularly important in the prosecution of non-stranger cases.
Bucks County’s SANE programs use a pool of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner’s who are on call 24 hours a day. The on-call SANE is paged whenever a sexual assault victim enters the community’s response system and usually responds within 30 to 60 minutes. The SANE or other medical personnel (e.g., emergency department physicians or nurses) first assess the victim’s need for emergency medical care and ensure that serious injuries are treated. After the victim’s medical condition is stabilized or it is determined that immediate medical care is not required the SANE can begin the evidentiary examination.
During the course of exams, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners:
- Obtain information about the victim’s pertinent health history and the crime.
- Assess psychological functioning sufficiently to determine whether the victim is suicidal and is oriented to person, place, and time.
- Perform a physical examination to inspect and evaluate the body of the victim (not a routine physical exam).
- Collect and preserve all evidence and document findings.
- Collect urine and blood samples and send them to designated laboratories for analysis in cases where drug-facilitated sexual assault is suspected.
- Treat and/or refer the victim for medical treatment (a SANE may treat minor injuries such as minor cuts and abrasions, but further evaluation and care of serious trauma is referred to a designated medical facility or physician).
- Provide the victim with prophylactic medications for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and other care needed as a result of the crime.
- Provide the victim with referrals for medical and psychological care and support.
If the case goes to trial, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner may be asked to provide testimony about forensic evidence they collected during victim and suspect exams. They view testifying as an integral part of their job and will readily adjust their schedules to be in court as needed. Prior to testifying, they often communicate with prosecutors so that they are informed about the issues involved in the case. For more information about Bucks County’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs, contact NOVA at 215-343-6543.