Senate Approves Expanding Access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners as Part of Crime Victims Bill Package

HARRISBURG – The Senate has voted to approve a package of bills aiding crime victims with one of those bills, Senate Bill 1172, seeking to improve access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, said Sen. Elder Vogel (R-47), prime sponsor of that legislation.

“Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, or ‘SANEs,’ conduct critical forensic evidence collection when a sexual assault survivor seeks medical attention after being attacked. In addition to conducting forensic exams or rape kits, SANEs may provide expert testimony if a case goes to trial,” Vogel said. “Ultimately, these health care professionals are providing comprehensive, trauma-informed quality care to survivors of sexual assault.”

“One would think SANEs are available in every hospital in Pennsylvania, however a 2021 study by the National Institutes of Health clarifies there are 49 certified SANEs across Pennsylvania. Given we have about 279 hospitals, it’s clear that not every hospital has a SANE,” said Vogel.

“At facilities where a SANE is not available, victims may be seen by an untrained examiner or turned away without an exam,” Vogel explained. “In many of those instances, victims must take it upon themselves to travel from one emergency room to the next until they are able to find a qualified examiner, with some travelling hours to other cities, or even other states, creating the very real potential for extensive wait times. This can all lead to secondary trauma, delays or errors in care, and improper collection of evidence.”

According to Vogel, SB 1172 lays the foundation to improve SANE availability as it (1) identifies a funding stream for hospitals to establish and maintain operation of SANE programs, and (2) directs the Department of Health to compile a list of all hospitals in the commonwealth that offer SANE services and to make that information available statewide.

“I’m gratified to see my legislation join this package of bills empowering victims and survivors of crime,” said Vogel.

Also included in the package of bills are:

  • Senate Bill 1179 (Sens. Lisa Baker, R-20, and Ryan Aument, R-36), which extends the Domestic and Sexual Violence Victim Address Confidentiality Act to give victims of child abduction and human trafficking access to substitute mailing addresses and allows applications for address confidentiality to be submitted electronically;
  • Senate Bill 118 (Sen. Kim Ward, R-39), which expands Megan’s Law to require offenders convicted of any sex trafficking-related offenses to register; and
  • Senate Bill 1040 (Sens. Pat Browne, R-16, and Kim Ward), which requires law enforcement to make reasonable efforts to ensure a murder victim’s family has been notified before releasing the victim’s identity to the public and media.

The bills now advance to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT:               Jenny Goehring            jgoehring@pasen.gov